The University of Sussex has become the first higher educational establishment in Britain to adopt mandatory “gender inclusive language”, forcing students to use gender neutral language at all times.
According to the Tab, students were advised over email that from now on a person’s preferred pronouns must be stated before any official student union event or meeting. This also includes university societies, which will need to confirm a member’s pronoun preference without assuming everyone wants to be referred as “he” or “she”.
The new policy, established by the student union, asks students to declare their preferred pronoun at “the beginning of every meeting, even if they have been stated at previous meetings”, while gender-neutral language “must be used where an individual’s pronouns are not known.”
However, in situations where individuals have no chance of advising about their preferred pronouns in advance, the union insists that students must not make assumptions about anyone’s gender identity but must instead use gender-neutral language, using pronouns such as “they” and “them” instead of “he” or “her”.
According to the student union: “The gender-neutral pronoun ‘they’ should be used as opposed to ‘he’ or ‘she’, and the pronoun ‘them’ as opposed to ‘him’ or ‘her’.”
“Individuals whose gender identities are not known should not be described as ‘men’ or ‘women’, and inclusive terms such as ‘person’ should be used instead,” the policy statement added.
The decree must also be obeyed by the university’s media.
“Gender neutral language must be used by all student media. When conducting interviews, an individual’s gender must not be assumed and gender neutral language should be used if pronouns are not known. Where possible, pronouns should be checked before interviews,” the email sent to students said.
Sussex University is the first institution to adopt strict gender-neutral regulations. Oxford University has been trying to institute similar rules, though its attempt has caused a backlash in the media.