(WBIR - KNOXVILLE) The University of Tennessee is making a clarification on statements referring to gender-neutral language.
Last week, UT's Office for Diversity and Inclusion released a letter to students reminding them to make the campus as welcoming and inclusive for everyone. This included encouraging them to use a student's name and the correct pronouns.
"We should not assume someone's gender by their appearance, nor by what is listed on a roster or in student information systems," wrote Donna Braquet, Director of the Pride Center.
Braquet asked that in the first weeks of classes, instead of calling roll, professors ask everyone to provide their name and pronouns.
"We are familiar with the singular pronouns she, her, hers and he, him, his, but those are not the only singular pronouns. In fact, there are dozens of gender-neutral pronouns," Braquet wrote.
A few of the most common singular gender-neutral pronouns are they, them, their (used as singular), ze, hir, hirs, and xe, xem, xyr.
The university received some backlash from state legislators.
State Sen. Frank Nicely, R-Strawberry Plains, posted his opinion on Facebook.
"It seems to me the biggest lack of diversity we have at the University of Tennessee is people of common sense," he wrote.
State Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, also shared his views on the letter via Facebook.
"First it was eliminating #LadyVols. Now this? I doubt if parents spending over $15,000 a year expect this kind of nonsense education from the University of Tennessee. My advice would be find something better and more productive to do," he wrote.
UT made a clarification on their website stating that there is no mandate or official policy to use gender-neutral pronouns.
It also said the university does not dictate speech and most people prefer to use the pronouns he and she. However, some don't.
The information was offered as a resource to the campus community.
Universities in Michigan, Vermont, Maryland and North Carolina have had campaigns on gender-neutral terms.