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The power of pronouns

The move to Canvas offers Roadrunners an opportunity to improve inclusivity and create a welcoming environment for students.

By Steve Willich

July 6, 2020

Engaged students sitting in classroom.This fall, Metropolitan State University of Denver will adopt the new Canvas learning-management system.  Students, faculty, and staff will have the ability to choose to display their pronouns within the Canvas system, and those pronouns will appear next to the user’s full name. 

Find more information on how to update your pronouns in Canvas.

Why personal pronouns matter

Human brains like to categorize. Categorization helps us make sense of objects, concepts and our environments. We are also taught to use our physical senses to help us identify and describe places, people, objects and so on. However, this can lead to assumptions and generalizations. These assumptions can extend to gender, which we often base on a person’s name or physical attributes. Assumptions can be incorrect and potentially harmful, putting pressure on a person to look and act a certain way to “belong” to a certain gender. 

Using a person’s correct pronouns, however, creates a respectful and inclusive environment. It is as important as learning a person’s name and its correct pronunciation. Assuming another person’s pronouns, or willfully using pronouns other than what that person has chosen for themselves, can be harassing or offensive, much like making up and using a nickname for someone against their wishes.

Living our University mission

Part of MSU Denver’s mission is to provide an accessible education to students. Access means, in part, that students feel like welcomed and valued members of the campus community. It means they belong, that they can be their authentic selves and express and live fully in their identities. Using a person’s correct pronouns is validating. Additionally, learning and using a person’s correct pronouns speaks directly to MSU Denver’s core values of diversity and respect.

How MSU Denver employees can be allies to LGBTQIA+ students and colleagues

  1. Include pronouns in your email signature and business cards.
  2. When introducing yourself, include your pronouns (i.e., My name is Steve, and I use he/him/his pronouns).
  3. Educate yourself about LGBTQ identities and history through an intersectional lens that centers trans and nonbinary people of color whose narratives are often dismissed or forgotten.
  4. Speak out and disrupt homophobic and transphobic language and actions.
  5. Ensure that materials you use, such as promotional materials for your department and assigned readings for class, include LGBTQ identities.

As MSU Denver makes the move to Canvas, all users are encouraged to use this new pronoun functionality for their own purposes and to better understand and serve our students. For more information on inclusivity and supporting LGBTQIA+ students, please visit the LGBTQ Student Resource Center.

Topics: Diversity, Inclusion, LGBTQ Student Resource Center, Respect

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