Every year, our campus becomes more diverse in terms of race, class, sexual orientation and gender identity, and this should be supported. But it is also true that not every member of the Brandeis community has experience with non-binary genders, or ease with pronouncing someone’s name. Yet, it should not be up to these students to educate other members of the community on their identity. The Student Union’s Social Justice and Diversity Committee (SJDC) initiative to include preferred gender pronouns and name pronunciation guides on class rosters is a great step toward further inclusivity at Brandeis.
For students with names that aren’t “easy” to pronounce, it can be uncomfortable to have to teach professors how to pronounce their names every semester. It is equally exhausting for trans or non-binary students to have to explain their pronouns or be misgendered. And though many professors have started to ask students about their pronouns rather than make assumptions, giving students the option to enter their pronouns and name pronunciation online removes some of the burden of educating others. It encourages conversations that students may feel uncomfortable starting themselves.
As Social Justice and Diversity Committee Chair Lucy Wen ’18 explained to The Brandeis Hoot, the small changes within the classroom could create larger changes within the Brandeis culture. Making such information readily available sets a precedent that the university is sensitive to all kinds of life experiences, not just those within the gender binary, or those with “normal,” Americanized names.
Additionally, the large voter response for the survey shows how important the issue is for students: it garnered a 20 percent voter turnout of both graduate and undergraduate students, compared to a usual turnout out of around 15 percent, according to Lucy Wen. In the past, the majority of the student body has neglected to vote for various elections, surveys and more.