Frequently Asked Questions: A Guide to Pronouns in Use for Faculty and Instructors

These are the pronouns that students use and want their faculty to use when referring to them. All students are welcome to register their pronouns.

This may be particularly useful for those students who do not identify as male or female or by the gendered pronouns found in many languages. For example, many gender nonbinary students use gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them/theirs or ze/hir/hirs.

Students who have gender-neutral names may also find this option useful.

A person's pronouns are shared to avoid assumptions about how someone would like to be referred to in the third person. In particular, this may be true for students who are gender nonbinary or who have names that are gender neutral or from a language that is unfamiliar to faculty.

We may not always be able to tell which pronouns a person uses by their appearance or name. This is why students can opt to indicate their pronouns in CourseWorks.

The pronouns of students who choose to register them will appear in the Name & Pronoun Recordings section of CourseWorks. If students record their name and register their pronouns, those pronouns will appear under the “Recorded Names” tab. If they do not record their name, then their pronouns will appear under the “Unrecorded Names” tab. Registered pronouns will not appear in other areas, such as the class roster tool. 

We encourage all faculty and students to review the Name & Pronoun Recordings section for their courses to learn the Pronouns in Use for students who have registered them.

Please note: In some places, this function may be called "NameCoach".

NameCoach example screenshot

If you are having difficulty finding or enabling the Name & Pronoun Recordings function, the following steps should remedy this issue:

  1. On your class homepage, click Settings on the left.
  2. Click the Navigation tab along the top.
  3. Locate "Name & Pronoun Recordings" on the list of tools.
  4. Drag "Name & Pronoun Recordings" to the top section of the page and place it where you would like to see it in the tool list on your homepage (the left sidebar).
  5. Click the Save button at the bottom of the page.

This function should be enabled by default for all classes on Courseworks. If you are having difficulty finding or enabling the Name and Pronoun Recordings function, the following steps should remedy this issue:

  1. On your class homepage, click Settings on the left.
  2. Click the Navigation tab along the top.
  3. Locate "Name & Pronoun Recordings" on the list of tools.
  4. Drag "Name & Pronoun Recordings" to the top section of the page and place it where you would like to see it in the tool list on your homepage (the left sidebar).
  5. Click the Save button at the bottom of the page.

Class lists with pictures and student biographical information are available on LawNet.

LawNet also contains the names preferred by your students (if different than the name in the class list), audio of the name pronunciation, and students’ pronouns (if indicated). You can access a guide to the LawNet Directory here.

There is a growing list of possible options for pronouns in use. At Columbia, students can select from five possible options, which are:

  • She/Her/Hers
  • He/Him/His
  • They/Them/Theirs
  • Ze/Hir/Hirs
  • Use my name as my pronoun

These are the most commonly used pronouns in our community. For more information on pronoun options, please see Pronouns in Our Community: A Guide from the Office of University Life.

Gender nonbinary people often use Mx. (pronounced "miks") in lieu of Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Miss. If you’re unsure what honorific a student prefers, it’s best to ask.

Students who change their pronouns during the semester will be advised to alert their instructors and teaching assistants of the change.

The concept of gender is expanding. Traditionally, many people viewed gender as a binary system — with people being either male or female. But a growing number of students, as well as staff and faculty, now identify as transgender or gender nonbinary, not as male or female. Some may use the terms genderqueer or third gender to describe their identity. Their names and appearance may also be gender neutral and may not conform to conventional gender expectations. For these students and others, being able to indicate the pronouns they use enhances their sense of inclusion and belonging on campus.

Mistakes happen, and it may take some time to get things right consistently. Acknowledge that you made a mistake and ask about the student’s pronouns. A good guide to addressing such errors is to rely on what you would ordinarily do in a similar situation (e.g., if you mispronounced a student’s name).

Unintentional and occasional misuse of a pronoun is not discrimination. Still, it is important to keep the student’s experience in mind. As you would not repeatedly call a student by the wrong name, repeatedly forgetting to use the student’s pronouns in use can create challenges to learning. 

As part of Columbia’s equal opportunity policy, faculty and teaching assistants should be cognizant of pronouns in use and always try to use them.

Transgender and gender non-conforming students who are accorded respect, including by having their designated pronoun used, benefit academically from being in a more inclusive environment. For more information about the value of inclusive classroom settings in students’ academic success, please see the Center for Teaching and Learning’s Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia.

A key element to creating learning environments where transgender and gender nonbinary students thrive academically is the respectful use of pronouns. 

Use the pronouns and names students share with you. Students look to faculty and teaching assistants to set norms and expectations in the classroom, so when you affirm students’ names and pronouns, your actions serve as a model for other students.  

You should expect to have transgender students in your classroom. And be aware that some students automatically mention their pronouns when introducing themselves.

For additional information on building an inclusive classroom, students’ pronouns and consultations on inclusive teaching practices, please contact the Center for Teaching and Learning. You can also find additional resources on pronouns and inclusiveness in the Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia.

This is currently a program for students. We will update faculty and staff when this option becomes available for them.