Frequently Asked Questions: A Guide to Pronouns in Use for Staff

These are the pronouns that students currently use and want other people to use when referring to them.

This may be particularly useful for those students who do not identify as men and women 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. Everyone has pronouns and everyone benefits from the normalization of sharing our pronouns because it interrupts gender stereotyping and expectations. In addition, explicitly sharing pronouns can facilitate communication for people with gender neutral names and whose native language is unfamiliar to faculty and classmates

Students’ pronouns are not always apparent by their appearance or name. At Columbia, students can opt to indicate in CourseWorks what pronouns they use, and those pronouns will appear on class rosters as a reference for faculty and other teaching staff, as well as for other course participants.

If you do not have access to CourseWorks, here’s what you can do: When you meet a student, introduce yourself and say what your pronouns are.

For example, you can say, "Hi, I'm Caroline, and my pronouns are she/her." This will provide an opening for the student to share their pronouns if they so choose. If you ask someone what pronouns they use when you first meet them, they may feel forced to out themselves as transgender or gender nonbinary, which they may not be ready to do. Sharing your pronouns when introducing yourself can help ease the way for students to share theirs with you.

There is a growing list of possible options for pronouns in use. Within Courseworks, students can select from these options:

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

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.

Once registered, pronouns in use 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 pronoun and name recording once for all courses they are enrolled in.

Many people view gender as a binary system — with people being either a men or women. But a growing number of students, as well as staff and faculty, identify as transgender or gender nonbinary, not as men or women. 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. Lastly, it’s important to remember that intentionally misgendering someone is a form of discrimination and in violation of the University’s non-discrimination policy.

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.

Acknowledge your mistake and ask the student what pronouns they use. As you wouldn’t repeatedly call a student by the wrong name, you don’t want to refer to a student by the wrong gender. Even unintentional errors can create challenges for students in the learning environment.

Unintentional misuse of a pronoun is not discrimination. However, it is important to keep the student’s experience in mind, because you don’t want to inadvertently refer to someone by the wrong gender; even unintentional errors can create challenges for students in the learning environment. Be cognizant of the pronouns a student uses and always try to use them.

Transgender students who are accorded respect and who are affirmed in their identity are more successful academically than those who are not. For more information about the value of inclusive classroom setting in students’ academic success, please see the Center for Teaching and Learning’s Guide for Inclusive Teaching at Columbia.

A key element of creating a safe and inclusive space for all students and staff is the respectful use of pronouns. It is also important to keep in mind Columbia’s nondiscrimination policy, which includes protection for gender identity.

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