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University of Pittsburgh issues inclusive language guide

The guide includes examples of how to use nongendered pronouns and language in the classroom to create a more inclusive environment.
The Cathedral of Learning, center, towers over the University of Pittsburgh campus on Nov. 26, 2020.
The Cathedral of Learning, center, towers over the University of Pittsburgh campus on Nov. 26, 2020.Gene J. Puskar / AP file

PITTSBURGH — Students and staff at the University of Pittsburgh are being encouraged to share their pronouns and the pronunciation of their names among other recommendations in a new voluntary guide on gender-inclusive language.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Thursday that the guide also includes examples of how to use nongendered pronouns like “they” and “ze,” and has suggestions for using nongendered language in the classroom.

For example, instead of using “ladies and gentlemen,” people at the university could use “colleagues, guests, all, yinz, friends, people, students, folks.”

“To avoid unintentionally creating a sexist and homophobic classroom environment, during discussions do not limit yourself to male examples or heterosexual examples,” the guide reads. “Teachers can and should honor the breadth of experience and potential in students’ lives by discussing women, gender non-conforming, and LGBT- identified people.”

Gerald Shuster, professor of political communication at the university, told the newspaper that even if no one is intending to mischaracterize a person, the university is, “working very hard to make sure that we don’t unintentionally create issues for transgender students or students who feel they are unfairly characterized.”

The guide encourages all students to share their pronouns in class and on virtual platforms that the university uses.

″... when everyone in the Pitt community shares their pronouns, it helps take some of the pressure off and spotlight away from those of us who regularly experience being misgendered,” the guide says.

In a section on the university’s website for faculty, a professor noted that no one is required to follow the guide.

“You are free to not use this language...” Scott F. Kiesling, professor in the linguistics department, wrote. “You are also free to criticize the way someone is dressed even if you don’t know them, but then most people would probably think you are rude. Isn’t it nice to have a little guidance about how to be considerate and polite?”

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