Policy suggests that all UOSU members identify their pronouns in online correspondences
The University of Ottawa Student’s Union (UOSU) passed a motion on March 21 suggesting all members of UOSU include their pronouns in official correspondence.
The motion was presented to UOSU’s Board of Directors (BOD) by faculty of common law director, Michelle Liu, with support from Nickolas Eburne, the director for the faculty of civil law. The policy encourages all members associated with the UOSU to include their pronouns in email signatures and Zoom meetings.
However, Eburne noted that some individuals might still not feel safe disclosing their gender identity in certain spaces, which is why the policy is worded to only suggest that members of UOSU disclose their pronouns.
Liu thought of the idea after co-authoring a book chapter on pronoun use in online settings to create safer spaces, both virtually and physically.
“Doing what I can to put this into practice just made sense,” wrote Liu in an email to the Fulcrum.
Eburne then became involved after Liu asked him to second the motion.
“To me, a policy like this is well overdue for a body like the UOSU that brands itself as progressive and advocates for equity in all aspects of student life,” Eburne said in an email to the Fulcrum.
Liu drafted a preamble outlining “both the obvious and not-so-obvious benefits of having the option to indicate one’s pronouns.” Liu and Eburne then went through the UOSU constitution to find provisions that would support such a policy.
The pair presented their motion using the preamble at a BOD meeting. Most BOD and executive members at the meeting, were supportive of the new motion.
“Its [support] shows unity on this front and sends a powerful message to RSGs [registered student governments] that the union stands firmly behind this motion and asks them to respect this new policy as best they can,” said Eburne.
Liu and Eburne both believe this policy is a small and easy way to demonstrate support to people who are gender diverse.
“As soon as student leaders disclose their pronouns during an official event or in official emails, it automatically sends a message to other students that the space is safe for all gender identities,” said Eburne.
As current UOSU president Babacar Faye noted, there are still instances where students are misgendered or their pronouns are not respected. He believes that these “microaggression have no place”.
Pronouns are deeply connected to our identities and how we communicate with others, explained Faye. Without identifying pronouns, there can be issues with communication and ensuring everyone feels welcome in the UOSU’s spaces.
“It is about normalizing asking people what their pronouns are,” shared Faye.
“The motion on pronouns seems like a small step relative to the action we can and will take, however, it is an important step in setting a standard to safe and open spaces within the UOSU.”