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.

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 non-binary students use gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them/theirs or use multiple pronouns, for example, she/her/hers and they/them/theirs.

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 non-binary, have names that are gender neutral or are 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 using the [email protected] option available and integrated with CourseWorks.

Once registered, pronouns will appear in a course, they will appear in the students’ “Your Info” and “Class Info.”  You can also access students’ name recordings here. Not all University systems are connected to each other, and not all information within University systems is automatically shared with other University community members.

Students’ parents (or emergency contacts) will not see this information, nor will it appear on their transcript. Students’ will only have to register their pronouns and name recording once for all courses they are enrolled in.

This function should be enabled by default for all classes on Courseworks. If you are having difficulty finding the [email protected] option, the following steps should remedy this issue:

  • On your class homepage, click “Settings” on the left.
  • Click the Navigation tab along the top.
  • Locate the "[email protected]" option on the list of tools.
  • Drag "[email protected]" 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).
  • 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
  • Ze/Zem/Zirs
  • Use my name as my pronoun
  • Option to Write in Pronouns

These are the most commonly used pronouns in our community. For more information on pronoun options, please see Pronouns in Use: Resources for the Columbia Community.

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.

Many people view gender as a binary system — with people being either male or female. But a growing number of students, as well as staff and faculty, 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.

Using someone’s correct pronouns shows respect and care. Pronouns are used in place of a name. Just as we show respect and care by learning someone’s name and greeting them by name, it also shows respect to learn someone’s pronouns and use them correctly.

Some students may select multiple sets of pronouns, for example “she/her/hers” and “they/them/theirs.” If a student uses multiple pronouns, it means they are comfortable being referred to by any of the ones they selected.

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. You would not repeatedly call a student by the wrong name, and 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 staff 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 staff 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.