UC Santa Barbara is now the third University of California school – after UC San Francisco and UC San Diego – to give students the option to display their pronouns in university systems, a change that went into effect on Sept. 13.
Students can indicate their pronouns in Gaucho On-Line Data (G.O.L.D.); in the “About Me” section, students can select from he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, “I do not use a pronoun,” “Other, please ask,” “I use all gender pronouns” or “None (will not display).”
Pronouns will be visible to all course instructors through Gauchospace and eGrades, with the goal of reducing misgendering for transgender and nonbinary students in classroom settings.
As of Sept. 17, about 1,000 students had indicated their pronouns through G.O.L.D., according to Craig Leets, director of the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (RCSGD).
“If a trans or nonbinary student is going to a class that they know that they’re gonna get misgendered in, not only are they less focused on the material, maybe less willing to go to that course, but there’s a stress associated with that,” Leets said.
“There is a significant negative impact on our students who are experiencing this regular misgendering in their classes, and so it was really important for us to try and lessen that and this is one of the best ways that we could do that.”
The RCSGD and the Trans Task Force have been advocating for this initiative for several years now, starting with former RCSGD director Dolan.
Leets, who started as the center’s new director last year, spoke to the Daily Nexus almost a full year ago about the initiative. Over the past year, the center has been laying the groundwork for the implementation of pronouns, looking into what departments would be involved with the change and how much work it would take, Leets said.
“It was earlier this year that we got the approval from the university to move forward, and so this summer has really been when the bulk of the work has been happening,” Leets said.
The Office of the Registrar, the Division of Student Affairs and Student Information Systems & Technology have been working on the technical end to change the university systems to accommodate pronouns, while Leets has been working on the marketing side of the project; news of the change was first announced in a campus-wide email sent out on Sept. 12 by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn.
While the initiative has been implemented at two other UC campuses already, Leets said the biggest hurdle in implementing pronoun functionality has been working around the lack of guidance from the UC system.
“UCSB – and this is [applicable to] a lot of topics – worries that they will do something and then later the Office of the President will come and say ‘Well, we want you to do it differently,’ and so that will require us to do a lot of extra work to change what we’ve already been doing to respond to what the Office of the President wants,” Leets said.
UCSB intentionally modeled the pronoun options after UCSF’s systems, Leets said, with the idea that if the UC Office of the President (UCOP) decides to start collecting this data, UCOP can recommend that other schools follow UCSB and UCSF’s methods.
While this implementation is a victory for the RCSGD, Leets said it was only the first step in making the university more inclusive for everyone. The pronoun functionality is only currently available for students, but the ultimate goal is to allow people to choose pronouns through the Campus Directory rather than G.O.L.D., he added, which would allow for staff and faculty members to also indicate their pronouns.
Currently, all UCSB students, staff and employees can indicate their preferred name on the directory; Leets said the center is still working out whether or not pronouns will be publicly available or just visible to people affiliated with UCSB, noting that there may be students who would be opposed to having their pronouns publicly available.
“Eventually, we would want this data to be as accessible as someone’s name, because names and pronouns are used all the time, by everyone,” he said. “However, as we’re still exploring the impacts on campus for having access to people’s pronouns, we’ll have to decide if everything’s going super well and we can release it in a public way.”
The next big date for pronoun functionality is Sept. 20, when GauchoSpace will update to include pronouns. Leets added that said the center will have a meeting in mid-October to discuss the timeline for transitioning pronoun functionality to the Campus Directory, but noted that it would be at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year at the earliest.
The RCSGD also plans to use the upcoming International Pronouns Day on Oct. 16 as a way to spread the word about the pronoun functionality, such as through tabling in the Arbor. The center also plans to continue to market it during events throughout the year.
“We’re just gonna keep telling people about it –– we wanna get all students, and as many students as possible, to indicate their pronouns,” Leets said. “That’s something that I would really emphasize, is that it’s for all students… It’s not just for trans and nonbinary students. Those students might be the most impacted, hopefully positively by this new functionality.”
“We want all students to indicate what their pronouns are to reduce the amount of assuming we do for other people’s pronouns, because we can be wrong when we make those assumptions.”
Correction [4:30 p.m.]: GauchoSpace will be updated on Sept. 20, not Sept. 19, as the article originally stated.
Updated [5:35 p.m.]: This story has been updated to reflect Dolan’s preferred name.