Editorial: Why Pronouns Matter

ERAU Administration Refuses to Enable Pronouns on Canvas

By Ian Conte, Copy Editor

In Jan. 2o2o, Canvas updated their platform to allow its users to set their pronouns on their profiles. Users can select from a list provided by the institution utilizing Canvas. The user’s pronouns will then appear next to their name in all areas on Canvas.

Despite this feature existing on Canvas for nearly 10 months, ERAU administration has yet to enable it. According to Prescott Vice Chancellor Dr. M. Kathleen B. Lustyk, ERAU plans to push off the implementation of pronouns on Canvas, email signatures, and stationary when a new Chief Diversity Officer is hired to oversee both campuses. 

However, the university is still searching for candidates to interview, and there is no clear indication of when a Chief Diversity Officer will be hired. By purposefully neglecting this important feature of canvas, ERAU administration is demonstrating an implied bias against its LGBTQIA+ students.

Pronouns are commonly used to refer to a person without saying their name. In English, the most common pronouns are he and she, which both explicitly refer to a person’s gender. But these associations are not always accurate.

For many gender queer, gender non-conforming, non-binary, and transgender people, these pronouns may not fit and can lead to discomfort, stress, and anxiety.

Using someone’s correct pronouns is an act of respect, and helps to promote a more inclusive environment for them and others. Just as using (or not using) nicknames or name-calling someone against their will can be insulting, it is insulting to guess at someone’s pronouns and use different pronouns than they identify with.

Enabling pronouns on Canvas is one way to avoid the confusion around personal pronouns. Students and faculty will be able to set their pronouns without announcing it publicly, and people who may be uncomfortable about talking about pronouns can inform themselves and others without having a conversation about it.

However, ERAU administration is reluctant to enable this feature on canvas. Dr. Lustyk likened these tasks regarding the normalization of personal pronouns to “low hanging fruit,” and believes that they should be pushed off until a Chief Diversity Officer is hired to take care of them. She believes that having a list of easy tasks for the new officer will help them get “dialed into the job.”

While convincing faculty and staff across both campuses to include their pronouns in email signatures and the like could be challenging, enabling pronouns on Canvas only takes a few seconds, and is as simple as clicking a button.

This blatant disregard for the requests, and ultimately, the wellbeing of ERAU’s students and faculty is not a good look for university administration. Comparing personal pronouns to “low hanging fruit” is downright disrespectful, and microagressionally transphobic. The administration is implicitly making a statement reminiscent of student complaints over the handling of the pandemic and racial justice: student comfort isn’t a priority.

Insteading of pushing the issue of pronouns on Canvas into “Riddle Runaround,” ERAU administration should listen to its students and faculty and show them the respect that they deserve. This is not a non-issue, it’s a basic human right that’s being denied so somebody doesn’t have to go to the effort of pressing a button.