By Dylan Witte
It’s official! The University of Wisconsin–Madison has finally added the pronouns field in our Canvas settings. As some of you may remember, I wrote an article last semester centered around my concern about the lack of pronouns in Canvas. Now I am here to talk about what took so long for — a minute yet — an important feature in Canvas to be offered to students.
Once again I am on the prowl for answers as to why student pronouns have been neglected by the University.
This time I decided to meet with Brandon Springer, the ASM Equity & Inclusion Committee Chair, and we had a great conversation on the necessity of pronoun fields not only on Canvas but on other university platforms.
While meeting with Springer the first question that I asked was regarding why the University waited until this semester to incorporate Canvas pronouns, rather than adding them last semester as numerous other universities — UW schools included — did.
Springer told me that the main reasoning behind the University’s delay was due to the fact that it would only add pronouns to Canvas, which means that only professors and TAs would have access to that information. The University did not want students to be upset when they went to entities such as Financial Aid Services and they were misgendered because these employees do not have access to Canvas pronouns. Which if you ask me seems like a stretch, even Springer “didn’t think it was that big of a concern.”
To start the process of getting pronouns added into Canvas, Dean Christina Olstad was brought into the conversation and agreed that the pronouns feature should be added. However, campus administration determined that it wasn’t immediately possible to add the feature because they were pursuing another service to increase inclusion.
“The University is exploring options to meet the needs identified and create an inclusive campus environment,” said Dean Olstad. While this may be true, the issue is that there needs to be immediate action taken, even if it is smaller than intended. These actions can still be a step in the right direction.
After delaying through the fall semester, they decided to add the pronouns feature to Canvas since the more widespread options were not going to be available by the start of the spring semester. Slowly but surely this is some progress. Not enough, but a start. Even now there is more work being done in an attempt to make this campus a more inclusive space.
I want to wrap up this article by providing some resources for those of you that want to know and learn more about pronouns and how they are to be used. The first is a one-pager from the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center that is titled, GSCC pronoun guide, which I mentioned in my last article on this subject. The next resource I want to share — also from the GSCC — is a web page that discusses why Pronouns Matter.
While these resources are both from the University and solely from the GSCC, I highly recommend looking into other resources that are not campus-specific, such as this website titled, mypronouns.org.
As we move forward and the inclusivity of pronouns becomes more prominent in everyday life, just remember that pronouns matter so use them with care and intent.
Dylan Arlo Witte (they/them) is a Staff Writer and the Social Media Manager for Bell Magazine. They are a senior at the University of Wisconsin–Madison studying Life Science Communications, LGBTQ+ Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies and Classical Studies.