Professor uses cards, showcases pronouns


Photo by Sarah Noble

First-year students Lizzie Gauthier and Victoria Fitez take notes in Dr. Rachelle Tannenbaum’s psychology class. Tannenbaum uses name cards during her classes to display students’ preferred pronouns.

Sarah Noble, Multimedia Editor

At least one professor this semester asked students to write their preferred pronouns on name cards on the first day of class.

Dr. Rachelle Tannenbaum, a psychology professor, said she usually has students write their names on cardstock name tents, which they prop up in front of them so classmates can see each other’s names.

This semester, she added an option for pronouns.

Students can circle “she/her,” “he/him,” they/them” or “other” with an explanation.

“I’ve already had students email me,” Tannenbaum said. “I know … one student said they go by “they/them” and … one whose pronouns clearly do not match their body shape,” she said.

Tannenbaum said the experiment has allowed both students and the professor to properly address each other during class discussions.

“Granted, you may not be able to see their name card all the way across the room, but at least it increases the odds,” she said. “It gets people thinking.”

Tannenbaum said several students asked her if she asked for the pronouns to be politically correct.

“I said, ‘Yes, but I don’t know if it’s the way you mean it,’” Tannenbaum said. “Because sometimes politically correct means nothing and you’re doing something just to look good. So it’s politically correct, but not in that sense.”

First-year film studies student Annabelle Browne said it shouldn’t be the professor’s responsibility to address pronouns.

“I don’t think [students] need to announce their pronouns to the class … but they should probably just tell their professors,” she said.

In a Campus Current social media poll, 34 followers said professors should address preferred pronouns on the first day of class and 22 said they should not.

AACC’s Chief Diversity Officer Deidra Dennie said pronouns “support an inclusive classroom atmosphere where the professor is establishing a space for students to be their authentic selves.”

Dennie said she encourages people to include their preferred pronouns in prominent places when their names appear for the first time.

“One way we can discover something more about our identity is by what we think when we look at other people,” Dennie said.

Tannenbaum said she wants students to be more open minded when they come into her classroom.
“We talk about suicide, abortion, sexual orientation and identity. … They’re allowed to disagree on [some] topics but they are not allowed to say, ‘Sexual orientation can be easily changed.’ No, it can’t,” Dennie said. “You don’t get to contradict evidence and what’s been proven.”

Tannenbaum said part of the reason why she chose to give pronouns as an option on the name cards was to set the tone for class.

“We are going to push your boundaries,” she said. “We are going to get you to think about things you haven’t before like gender identity.”

She said she hopes other professors will follow her example.

“It’s showing respect,” she said. “I’m not going to be disrespectful.”