Gender inclusive initiatives announced two months late


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The Gender Inclusive Initiative aims to raise awareness about issues like preferred pronoun usage at the college.

By Campus Reporter

The LGBTQ Office of Culture & Community, along with Multicultural Affairs and Common Ground, launched the Gender Inclusive Initiative in early September, calling for preferred pronoun awareness and gender neutral bathrooms, as reported Sept. 14 by The Chronicle. However, the same initiative with outlined expectations was not officially announced to faculty until Oct. 23, some seven weeks later, in an email from Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Success. 

The initiative was supposed to be announced to the faculty earlier in the semester, said Lex Lawson, coordinator for the LGBTQ Office of Culture & Community. 

“The intention was for it to go out at the beginning [of the semester],” Lawson said. “There was a shift in how institutional communications are being done and [the announcement] got caught in the middle.” 

Cara Birch, director of the news office, said there are changes to institutional communications at the college, but they are not related to this announcement. 

“There are a lot of changes with the news office and how we share information at the college,” Birch said. “Communications go out when they can go out. There is not really anything significant about the way that [this announcement] was issued.” 

According to Ramona Gupta, coordinator of Asian-American Cultural Affairs who has worked closely with those involved in the initiative, its announcement to faculty was supposed to be made before the semester began. 

“It was my understanding it would go out before the semester started,” Gupta said. “I do not know why there was a delay.”

Kelly was responsible for sending out the announcement and communications at the college take time to be sent out, Birch said. 

“There is a lot going on at the college, and I do not think there was a particular delay,” Birch said. “I would actually disagree that there was a delay.” 

Kelly said the emailed announcement was delayed because the letter needed to be fully prepared before being sent out. 

“There was no reason at all—it is simply a timing issue,” Kelly said. “When you communicate with faculty and staff, it has to be done well, and we wanted to prepare a letter that clearly articulated resources and expectations. This is the first official communication clearly articulating the college’s expectations and resources.”

In the Oct. 23 email, Kelly stated that all faculty and staff are expected to be knowledgeable about the initiative and respect preferred pronouns.

The email also contained information about voluntary training available to faculty at the college, Lawson said. 

“There are resources available to faculty and staff, and we are trying to increase those and make sure they are aware of them,” Lawson said.

The email is simply another part of the ongoing initiative, Kelly said.

“As part of our continuing commitment to students who identify as transgender or gender non conforming, we want to educate our community and help our community better support these students,” Kelly said. “I am really pleased to see the progress the college has made on a number of important issues regarding gender expression.” 

It is still being decided whether gender-neutral pronouns will be used on Columbia’s website, according to Birch.

Gupta said the email did raise awareness, but she does not think the initiative will be successful until the college makes a commitment to provide mandatory, compensated training for faculty.

“Until the college—and the administration—makes a solid commitment to [the initiative] I really do not know how it can happen campus-wide,” Gupta said. “[Students] are saying we do not think it is acceptable to have people work here unless they understand these particular issues.”

As reported Sept. 14 by The Chronicle, students have been misgendered by faculty this semester.

Gupta said delaying an announcement as important as this one is unacceptable. 

“The administration wants to do the right thing,” Gupta said. “When students are experiencing things that make them feel truly unsafe on campus, telling them to wait does not work.”