SGA senate discusses gender-neutral language

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SGA Senator Andi Trowbridge poses for a campaign photo during the spring 2016 Student Government Association Elections. PHOTO/Joselyn Ellington
SGA Senator Andi Trowbridge poses for a campaign photo during the spring 2016 Student Government Association Elections.
PHOTO/Joselyn Ellington

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The student body of IU South Bend includes men, women and those who identify as neither. Some Student Government Association (SGA) senators want that fact reflected in the communications of the SGA.

The SGA Senate discussed Friday changing the language of its constitution, meeting minutes and all other documents to gender-neutral language, excluding the use of the pronouns “he” and “she.” No action was taken on the issue at the meeting, which was the second meeting at which the senate discussed the issue.

Senator Rhonda Redman is in favor of the change, which would replace “he” and “she” with the gender-neutral, plural pronoun “they” in SGA documents.

“It’s the way society is moving,” Redman said at the SGA meeting Sept. 2. “As student leaders, we should be in the lead on this.”

Senator Andi Trowbridge originally brought the topic to the Senate floor at the Aug. 26 meeting of the SGA, citing the need to include IUSB’s “active LGBT community.” Trowbridge identifies as “agender,” and prefers to be referred to with a gender-neutral plural pronoun.

“I don’t agree with assigning people gender,” Trowbridge said in an interview after the meeting. “I want to speak, act and be a human being, not a gender.”

Trowbridge said Indiana University now crafts policy with consideration to non-binary gender. “The IU system is trying to go that route; I think we should go that route too,” Trowbridge said.

Trowbridge pointed to new gender-neutral bathrooms, the installation of which IU will require during any building renovations.

IUSB spokesperson Ken Baierl confirmed that the renovation of the Administration Building would include a gender-neutral bathroom. “Indiana University makes it a practice to consider and install gender-neutral restrooms in its renovation projects if possible,” he added.

No senator spoke in opposition to the suggested use of gender-neutral language at the Sept. 2 meeting. But SGA President Stephen Salisbury reminded the Senate that if they want the change, they would have to take action.

“I think it’s a valuable discussion and a legitimate discussion. But all power rests in the Senate for a constitutional amendment.”

Trowbridge said they would consider introducing such an amendment, adding, “It might seem like a small thing to people who don’t struggle with being accepted as who they are. But it’s a big deal for someone who doesn’t follow societal gender norms.”

1 comments on “SGA senate discusses gender-neutral language”

  1. IPFW student and long-time “they” pronoun user here. It’s interesting that last semester the single-user restrooms had both male/female pictographs on them, and this semester they are relabeled “gender neutral and accessible restroom”. It makes me feel like I ought to be here, and more likely to recommend this campus to my friends. It also helps reduce the stress that would interfere with my ability to focus on my studies. If the goal of a university is to educate students, all of these changes are a way to reinforce that goal.

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