Culture

CUNY: Don’t Call Students ‘Mr., Mrs. or Ms.’ Because That’s Maybe Disrespectful

Don't do anything that someone could find offensive!

The Graduate Center of the City University of New York issued a memo advising staff not to address any students as “Mr., Mrs. or Ms.” beginning this spring because some could find it disrespectful.

The policy is intended to “ensure a respectful, welcoming and gender-inclusive learning environment . . . and to accommodate properly the diverse population of current and prospective students,” according to the memo, signed by interim provost Louise Lennihan.

School spokeswoman (wait – can I call her that?) Tanya Domi said the initiative was also part of the school’s “working within a regulatory framework to comply with Title IX legal principles,” which forbid discrimination based on sex at any institution receiving federal funding.

(Yes, the viewpoint that calling someone “Mr.” could ever be considered a violation of federal policy is terrifying.)

But attorney and Title IX consultant Saundra Schuster insisted to the Wall Street Journal that CUNY’s new policy isn’t necessary for complying with the law. ”They are not mandated to do this,” she said.

That isn’t stopping CUNY from requiring it. Linguistics professor Juliette Blevins told the Journal: “My interpretation was that I was being asked to adhere to this policy, as were the professors who received the letter.”

The idea behind all of it is to protect students who identify as a different gender from what their professors might expect.

Of course, all students have always had the ability to tell the school how they prefer to be addressed. It is not clear what the procedure will be for any student who does prefer to be addressed as Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. – especially considering that these salutations have traditionally been seen as a sign of respect and not the opposite.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.

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