Case Western Reserve University has solidified its spot on the front lines of student validation and affirmation by implementing an update to their Student Information System that now allows students to self-identify outside of the archaic "male/female" binary in addition to choosing their pronouns.
The list of gender identity labels were chosen by speaking with transgender students to determine the list of gender identities and pronoun options. Students are able to select from over 20 different gender identities including (but not limited to) transgender, genderqueer, agender, non-binary and polygender in addition to man and woman.
Available pronouns include she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs and xe/xem/xyrs.
Director of CWRU's LGBT Center, Liz Roccoforte and Assistant Director AmariYah Israel told Scene
they are pleased with the move forward.
"We know that there are a multitude of terms that resonate with people and we opted to include more labels, rather than edit the list and include less labels," the directors said in an email. "The risk of not including an identity sends a message of invalidation and we wanted to validate and recognize as many gender identities as possible."
The change has been in planning for more than a year, and spearheaded by the university's LGBT Center. As the feature was part of a larger software update, the University had to wait until after the regular academic year to implement the change. CWRU unveiled the change this summer so incoming students can establish their identities before they ever step foot on campus.
According to Roccoforte and Israel, identifiers such as name, gender, and personal pronouns are core factors to many students’ sense of self. Not providing opportunities for students to share who they are allows for more chances of them being misidentified in the system and by faculty or administrators.
"Students who are misgendered experience a range of emotion and realities — a student might feel humiliated, unsafe, under scrutiny by classmates and/or pressured to affirm or deny the misgendering," Roccoforte and Israel said. "This kind of scenario could and has led to students choosing not to go to a particular class and potentially impacting their academic career."
In the first week of the launch, many students have already begun using the Student Information System to add pronouns and gender identity. CWRU Faculty and staff are inviting the LGBT Center staff to present at department and committee meetings to learn more about the importance of pronouns.
"The feedback that we have received so far has been overwhelmingly positive. People have questions, but are typically supportive and just seeking more information and resources," Roccoforte says.
This step is hugely progressive, as the Campus Pride Index
indicates there are currently only 18 universities/colleges that list pronouns on rosters and 59 that enable students to update their gender without documentation.
The SIS update supports the work of the LGBT Center as well as affirms the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
"By adding these options we are not only directly supporting the students who this impacts, we are indirectly creating a space for dialogue, education and raised awareness for the entire campus community," Roccoforte says.
The SIS system is flexible so the university can add and remove labels based on community feedback and shifting language norms.