July 27, 2018
What's "misgendering?" Students at the University of Minnesota might want to look it up, seeing as they could be kicked out of school for doing it! In the race for the most outrageous campus policy, the Gophers took a big lead when the school's Equal Opportunity Office introduced a new rule that would punish people for using the wrong pronoun to address someone -- even if that person hasn't changed their sex or their name!
University officials say the idea is supposed to protect students who identify as transgender. As part of the rule, students are "invited to choose their personal pronoun [which includes bizarre configurations like 'Ze'] and gender identity on the school website, and fellow faculty and students will be expected to follow those personal choices." Anyone caught referring to someone by the wrong pronoun would be charged with "harassment" or "discrimination." The punishment? "...Disciplinary action up to and including termination from employment and academic sanctions up to and including academic expulsion."
Even more astounding, UM would use this policy to open the door to gender-free "housing, restrooms, locker rooms, recreation services and activities, and camp programs." Imagine pulling up to college with your son or daughter and finding out their roommate is a "Zir." Ian Smith can't. The member of UM's student senate wants everyone to know that if the university goes ahead with this rule, it's not because students want it.
In a bold op-ed for the Star-Tribune, Ian speaks up and says the policy shouldn't be enacted. "First, it's unconstitutional to compel certain speech, but as a representative in the Student Senate, I also must worry about the inevitable unintended consequences." Like forcing someone to say something they don't believe. "I represent thousands of students at the University of Minnesota, and to vote for a policy that would force any of them to say anything would not only be supporting an unconstitutional policy, but also contrary to the principles that universities across the nation were founded on."
As FRC's Peter Sprigg pointed out, the school is basically compelling students to lie. Ian agrees, arguing that "There is something wrong with a policy that kicks a student out of its school and essentially ruins their lives over their not uttering a one-syllable word." What if, one professor asks, you slip up and use the wrong word? "Is that harassment or discrimination? Does everybody get one free pass and after that, it's harassment?" According to a fellow faculty member who identifies as a woman, no one would be punished right away. But, he insisted, it's "really saddening" when people don't call you the right pronoun.
You know what else is really saddening? That this is where we are as a nation. It's mind-boggling that we've allowed a handful of extremists to take us to this point of moral and cultural confusion. Every day, there's another University of Minnesota in the news, trying to force its dangerous ideology on students. And those are just the ones we hear about. We can either keep addressing the symptoms -- or we can treat the cause. More Americans need to take their cues from students like Ian and find the courage to speak out!
** The Washington Update is taking its regular August break, but we'll keep you informed of important developments in the Senate and elsewhere in our alerts. You can also keep up with what's happening by tuning into "Washington Watch" Monday through Friday at 5:00 p.m. (ET). For station listing, visit TonyPerkins.com -- or, better yet, download FRC's Stand Firm App and listen live from anywhere. The daily Update will return after Labor Day. **
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.