The University of Arizona’s Social Justice Leadership Center offers a listserv to anyone interested in receiving information about social justice events on campus. I’m a subscriber to this listserv. Every day or so I get an email letting me know about a “Women’s Resource Center Breast Party,” a social justice retreat, or a screening of the documentary “The Agressives.”
In today’s mail was a message specifically to LGBTQ faculty, staff, and students requesting them to take a survey “on the campus climate for LGBTQ individuals.” The linked survey, however, is open to all and makes no attempt to screen non-LGBT listserv-ers. So I checked out the 8-question poll (for each one except number 6, the answer options are “Not at all,” “Not very often,” “Sometimes,” “Often,” and “Very often.”):
- Do you feel that your professors incorporate GLBT-inclusive content in their courses?
- Do you feel that professors use GLBT-inclusive language in the classroom?
- Do you feel that professors create a GLBT-inclusive environment in the classroom?
- Do you feel that students use GLBT-inclusive language in the classroom?
- Do you feel that students create a GLBT-inclusive environment in the classroom?
- If you said "not very often" or "not at all" to the above statements, please describe.
- Do you feel that staff members use GLBT-inclusive language on campus?
- Do you feel that staff members create a GLBT-inclusive environment on campus?
Speaking “inclusively” means substituting in terms like persons for men or women; flight attendant for stewardess; nurturer for mother; and “Greetings earthlings!” for “Hey guys!”
In looking for those examples, I noticed that at least one University of Arizona professor has already taken steps to encourage inclusive language. His course (I mean, that person’s course) syllabus for Knowledge Structures I includes a “Language Courtesy” clause:
Inclusive language: Gender-inclusive language is required in all course work and on all quizzes. The use of respectful language in any situation is not a matter of "political correctness" but one of simple courtesy.
And as for “creating a GLBT-inclusive environment,” that’s a phrase that many colleges use frequently without explanation or examples. Everyone should just know how to create a GLBT-inclusive environment. The closest think I found to a set of guidelines was an “Understanding Prejudice: Tips for Elementary School Teachers” manual sponsored by the Social Psychology Network. One of the tips was:
If you notice gender or racial segregation during play times, reorganize the activities or play area to foster integration and reduce stereotypes. For example, if girls gravitate toward playing house and dressing up, relocate woodworking tools near the house for home repairs, and include dress-up props such as a doctor's bag, police badge, tool belt, or hard hat.
The principle reminded me of a passage I had read in Dr. Louann Brizendine’s book The Female Brain:
The impulses of children are so innate that they kick in even if we adults try to nudge them in another direction. One of my patients gave her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter many unisex toys, including a bright red fire truck instead of a doll. She walked into her daughter's room one afternoon to find her cuddling the truck in a baby blanket, rocking it back and forth saying, "Don't worry, little truckie, everything will be all right."
This isn't socialization. This little girl didn't cuddle her "truckie" because her environment molded her unisex brain. There is no unisex brain. She was born with a female brain, which came complete with its own impulses. Girls arrive already wired as girls, and boys arrive already wired as boys. Their brains are different by the time they're born, and their brains are what drive their impulses, values, and their very reality.
But somehow I doubt the social justice folks at U Arizona would be convinced by Dr. Brizendine. They would rather know whether GLBTs feel that professors, students, and staff members are on their toes to say the correct words and do the correct things.
What does the University plan to do with the responses? The listserv email says, “The results of this study will be used to help the Office of LGBTQ Affairs improve the quality of life for our community.” How? By asking professors to stop saying mankind? By implementing a university-wide inclusiveness rule? By turning the entire campus into a giant safeZONE?
The method is uncertain, but the intent is clear: to modify the University, both inside the classroom and out, as a yes-man catering to the plaints of an identity group. Oh, oops, I mean, yes-person.