KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE — Do you feel offended every time you hear "he" or "she"? These "gender specific" pronouns should be relegated to the dustbins of history, according to an activist at the University of Tennessee's new Knoxville campus.
Donna Braquet, who runs the university's Pride Center, has sent out a memo to staff and students suggesting pronoun changes that have been on hard-core activists' wish lists for years.
Braquet wants to replace "he" and "she" with the "non-gender binary" pronoun "ze," while also asking teachers beginning a new class to find out what name and preferred pronoun a student wishes to be identified with.
In Braquet's words, "The name a student uses may not be the one on the official roster, and the roster name and not be the same gender as the one the student now uses."
Following an inevitable backlash, the university clarified that pronoun substitution was not an official policy and that the school did not "dictate speech."
But the fallout has highlighted a perceived trend among U.S. universities to curtail expressions and language by students that faculty have deemed offensive.
At Washington State University, two professors are reportedly threatening to deduct points from students for "hateful" or "oppressive" language, which naturally will be deemed kosher or verboten by the professors themselves.
Language changes with culture and few people are likely all that upset that "fireman" has morphed into "firefighter," as the new term is logical and more inclusive. But how far should society bend over backwards to accommodate a tiny minority of fringe gender-neutral extremists?
Shouldn't college be a place where you figure out what you believe to be right and wrong through thought, debate, experiences and making mistakes? Or do we already live in George Orwell's 1984?