The push for “preferred pronouns” for trans and non-binary students as mandatory has created “compelled speech” concerns for many universities.
- Freedom of speech and academic freedom permits teachers to decide how to approach the issue.
- Title IX protections have been used to reprimand professors and teachers who do not abide by the school’s policies, threatening the possibility of termination in some cases.
- Ken Tashjy, an adjunct instructor at Suffolk University in Boston, is calling out the practice in an op-ed for Campus Reform.
- “While the preferred pronoun push in higher education is promoted under the guise of advancing diversity and inclusion, such efforts are no less offensive to the First Amendment since they force an individual to adhere to an ideological point of view they find unacceptable,” says Tashjy.
Why it’s News
The Supreme Court affirms the right of free speech and from compelled speech, and this has created tension in higher education as it attempts to address the recent civil rights push for trans-protections.
Tashjr cites the case of tenured Professor Nicholas Meriwether of Shawnee State University, who in 2018 was threatened with disciplinary action and termination for refusing on religious and personal grounds to identify trans students by their preferred pronouns. He sued the university and received a settlement of $400,000
“Forcing Meriwether to convey this message amounts to compelled speech, which is irreconcilable with the First Amendment and violates a ‘cardinal constitutional command.’ This decision and the resulting settlement should put institutions on clear notice that implementing similar ill-fated and unconstitutional policies will cost they/them/theirs dearly,” says Tashjy.
Backing Up a Bit
Colleges and universities are not instituting these laws for the sake of being tyrannical. Many are responding to calls for more protection for vulnerable students and populations, such as the LGBT+ community due to the harsh treatment they’ve received. It is considered cruel to not address students with gender dysphoria by a gender they do not identify as. The implementation of these rules does raise further ethical considerations, though.
Academic and corporate diversity policies have been called out before. Hundreds of academics have spoken out against the practice, and many have lost their jobs. It also needs to be clarified where the moral lines should be drawn on these issues, which has resulted in teachers being disciplined for just showing opposing arguments in classrooms.
Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada disciplined graduate student Lindsay Shepard in 2018 for showing Dr. Jordan Peterson clips in a dialogue about the discourse between Pro and Anti-Trans positions because merely presenting the opposing position amounted to hate speech.