CUNY Graduate Center Spurns Use of ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’

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The City University of New York’s (CUNY) Graduate Center will no longer be using the terms “Mr.” or “Ms.” in their official correspondence in an effort to be sensitive to their transgender students.

An internal memo recently went out from Interim Provost Louise Lennihan explaining the decision.

“Effective Spring 2015, the (graduate center’s) policy is to eliminate the use of gendered salutations and references in correspondence to students, prospective students and third parties,” Lennihan wrote to the school’s 140 teachers Jan. 16. “Accordingly, Mr. and Ms. should be omitted from salutations.”

According to a graduate center spokeswoman, free speech still applies at the school and professors are still able to refer to their students however they wish while in the classroom.

However, with regard to letters, bills and other forms, students will be referred to by their full names.  Doing so will “ensure a respectful, welcoming and gender-inclusive learning environment … (and) accommodate properly the diverse population of current and prospective students,” Lennihan added.

The school system gained a preferred name policy this past December, allowing their students to change their names within school records.  Other area schools, including New York University and Princeton University, have such policies in place as well.

The response to the decision appears to be one of overwhelming support.

“I think their heart is in the right place,” said etiquette expert Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post. “Nobody likes assumptions being made about them.”

Teacher Erica Chito Childs, a CUNY Graduate Center sociology professor specializing in race, gender and sexuality, said it was a “groundbreaking” decision that “allows us to interact with others as individuals.”

But not everyone is happy with the change, writes Meredith Angel for The Daily News.

“We do not need another ultra PC policy change,” Joseph Borelli, a Republican state Assemblyman who teaches a politics course at CUNY’s College of Staten Island, told the Journal.

School spokesperson Tanya Domi said the policy was meant to comply with Title IX, which bans discrimination.

However, there are some who do not believe that statement.

“Title IX is being turned into a Swiss army knife that can be used by colleges and universities to justify (and provide political cover for) virtually any academic or institutional policy even tangentially related to sex or gender,” free speech lawyer Ari Cohn told The College Fix.

Saundra Schuster, an attorney and Title IX consultant for universities, agreed, saying the new policy is not a necessary addition to comply with the statute, writes Jessica Chasmar for The Washington Times.  “I love the concept,” she told The Journal, “but they are not mandated to do this.”