Oxford students have been told to refer to one another as “ze” rather than “he” or “she”, as the phenomenon of gender-neutral pronouns on campus continues to spread.
Officials in the students union has backed the stance of using the alternative to avoid offending transgender peers.
The reminder backs up rules in the student union’s code which has made it an offence to misgender another student.
— Joanna Williams (@jowilliams293) December 11, 2016
According to The Sunday Times, which reported the new rule, Oxford’s innovation follows moves at other British universities to bring in a wider spread of gender identities.
The Sunday Times reported that the union published a leaflet for students insisting on the adoption of “ze”, which the union disputed.
However, they did confirm that the policy of requiring people to state their pronouns is in widespread use, alongside their support for other “neopronouns”.
The move takes on a special significance at Oxford, the world’s oldest English-speaking university and, via the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the most widely-recognised custodians of the language.
A statement posted on OUSU’s website said: “In light of the factual inaccuracies published, we would like to highlight that our support for trans students includes respecting neopronouns and non-binary identities.
“We would also like to clearly state that we would never tell anyone to use ‘ze’ pronouns instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ if ‘he’ or ‘she’ is the pronoun someone wishes to use.”
The University of Cambridge is reportedly asking speakers to introduce themselves with gender-neutral pronouns – apparently regardless of their actual gender identity – in an effort to “make the union intersectional”.
The culture shift follows changes in US and Canadian institutions.
At Vanderbilt University, staff are now required to specify their pronouns on nametags.
At the University of Michigan professors can be punished for using the wrong pronouns when addressing students, though many turned the regime to farce by insisting on pronouns like “his majesty” and “the greatest of all time”.
Oxford students to use 'Ze' instead of 'She' or 'He' so they don't offend transgender people. Should all language be gender neutral?@skynews
— Sarah-Jane Mee (@skysarahjane) December 12, 2016
Public opponents of the new order have been censured – including Canadian professor Jordan Peterson, who was told to stop publicly insisting on his right to ignore his students’ preferred pronouns.
Commenting on the latest move at Oxford, he told the Sunday Times: “UK universities should resist this. Whole disciplines have become irretrievable from these doctrines.”
Heat Street has contacted the Oxford University Students’ Union for comment.