CUNY Graduate Center becomes first school to instate gender-inclusive language policy

The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) has officially announced a new policy that calls for students to be addressed in correspondence by their names, rather than with terms, like "Ms." or "Mr.", that assume the student's preferred gender pronouns.

Though the policy refers specifically to written interactions, and is not mandated but rather suggested, faculty are encouraged to apply far and wide with the school's 5,000 students. It has gone into effect at the start of this current semester. The school is thought to be the first to implement such a policy, meant to show inclusivity and respect to the diversity of gender identities.

The policy has been met with mixed reactions by the staff, with some advocating for a policy that is both gender-inclusive and culturally-sensitive, others applauding the effort as evolving with the times. Joseph Borelli, a Republican state Assemblyman and a professor at CUNY's College of Staten Island (where the policy is not in place), derided it as "another ultra PC policy change," and likened it to students asking to be called "'Godzilla' or whatever."

While some in the media have expressed concern that CUNY Graduate Center is violating tradition, etiquette expert Anna Post (who is the great-granddaughter of the iconic Emily Post), spoke well of the effort, saying, "Nobody likes assumptions being made about them."

CUNY Graduate Center sociology professor Erica Chito Childs told the New York Daily News that the encouraged approach is good for everyone. "I think this decision is groundbreaking," she said. "[Using salutations] relies on old notions of being attached to your marital status, [whereas CUNY's decision], "allows us to interact with others as individuals."

Numerous outlets have reported the policy is a Title IX-related mandate that disciplines faculty who do not comply, the school itself has clarified those assumptions are false. According to the Huffington Post, this is just one effort the school is making to respect students' identities and foster a safer, more constructive learning environment:

The Graduate Center told The Huffington Post that the memo was actually aimed at advising faculty about the school's new preferred-name policy, which allows students to go by a moniker other than their legal name on certain university documents such as course rosters, student identification cards and student email addresses. The students simply have to fill out a form.

The same week that the Graduate Center announced the language policy, CUNY's Hunter College (Audre Lorde's alma mater) upgraded its Women and Gender Studies program to a full-fledged department. Though the media has been widely critical of the changes at CUNY, students and graduates have taken to social media to contribute positively to the conversation: