First Amendment

Webinar on Meriwether Opinion

Does the First Amendment cover pronoun usage by university professors in the classroom?

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On June 2, the Academic Freedom Alliance will be hosting a webinar panel discussion on the recent landmark 6th Circuit case on the First Amendment and academic freedom at state universities. Judge Amul Thapar's opinion in Meriwether v. Trustees of Shawnee State University broke new ground arguing that university classroom teaching enjoyed robust First Amendment protections, but the issues are not easy ones.

I will moderate the panel discussion, which will include Jeannie Suk Gersen of Harvard University Law School, Steve Sanders of Indiana University Law School, and Volokh co-blogger Jonathan Adler of Case Western Reserve University Law School. Registration for the webinar can be found here.

NEXT: Judge Denies Mega-Law-Firm’s Request to Litigate Arbitration Confirmation Under Seal

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  1. I kind of wonder how far this personal pronoun stuff goes, if I decided my personal pronouns were ‘Excellency’, ‘Excellency’, ‘Excellency’, is a professor obliged to affirm my identity and self worth my addressing me as ‘Excellency’, despite my course work being anything but excellent.

    1. This is one of the problems with this entire industry. There is no limiting principle. May I insist that a professor call me traditional male or female pronouns? If so, my I insist that a professor call me non-traditional male or female pronouns? How about non-traditional gender-agnostic pronouns? How about any word (real or imagined) of my choosing? If I choose to identify as a Ford Taurus, or as Zsa Zsa Gabor, or as a fifty-dollar bill, who is a mere professor to deny my that dignity?

      1. And how the heck do these idiots expect everyone else to memorize their particular pronouns? I have enough trouble with names of people I don’t see every day; I refuse to pile on more unmemorable arbitrary nonsense. Dress like a girl, wear short hair like a man, go out of your way to confuse other people, and I will call you whatever I damn well please. If you don’t like it — if you think I am disrespectful for not knowing your mood of the moment — damn right!

        1. ” Dress like a girl, wear short hair like a man, go out of your way to confuse other people, and I will call you whatever I damn well please.”

          Good grief, could you be more provincial here? “Your long hair is confusing me so I will call you what I want, hippie!”

          1. Could you pretend to be even more obtuse? If you have never seen a woman with short hair and dressed like a man, to all appearances intending to look like a man, then it is YOU who has led a provincial life.

            1. Could you pretend to be even more obtuse?

              I’m not convinced there’s any pretending going on.

        2. ” wear short hair like a man ”

          Obsolete clingers are among my favorite culture war casualties.

          1. The homosexual flag is flying from our embassies. The homosexual agenda is the policy of the United States.

            1. That agenda calls for an airing of a Judy Garland movie or special every Saturday night.

      2. “How about any word (real or imagined) of my choosing? ”

        That’s a big jump, isn’t it? It’s like ‘hey, what’s the limiting principle for traveling in basketball, is it ok to take one step? Two? A hundred?’

        If someone in your class was listed as ‘Stanley’ on the roll but on the first day they said ‘I prefer to be called Stan’ would you say ‘no way, if I call you Stan then the next thing you know you’ll want me to call you Ace, and then next will be His Lord Excellency Captain Butternipples!’

        I’m betting you’d just say ‘Sure thing, Stan.’

        1. “I’m betting you’d just say ‘Sure thing, Stan.”

          Of course. Many people would be fine calling someone “Stan” but would prefer not to call someone “His Lord Excellency Captain Butternipples.”

          And that’s OK.

          But if you make a rule saying that students must be addressed by their preferred form of address, then you gotta call the guy Butternipples.

          1. “if you make a rule saying that students must be addressed by their preferred form of address”

            Which wasn’t the case here. “Preferred form of address” is much broader than “pronoun that reflects a student’s self-asserted gender identity”

            1. I was addressing your hypo, not the case in the OP.

              It’s your hypo, what would be an analogous rule to the one in the case?

              1. You do get the hypo was an argumentum ad absurdum, right? It was meant to show the huge leap that had been made and how absurd that treating a much more modest request as equivalent is.

                1. But it showed just the opposite, as I pointed out. Your hypo involved a professor who was able to choose to honor a modest request and reject an absurd request. This policy applies to both modest and absurd requests.

                  1. No, the hypo shows that following a modest request doesn’t mean you have to follow an absurd one. And the request from Doe here was modest in comparison to the parade of horribles presented here as ‘the inevitable conclusion’ of following the modest one actually at issue here.

                    1. And who defines what is ‘modest’ vs ‘horrible’ – you?

                    2. “And the request from Doe here was modest in comparison to the parade of horribles presented here as ‘the inevitable conclusion’ of following the modest one actually at issue here.”

                      Perhaps you’re not following the argument. The argument is not that the parade of horribles will inevitably follow from honoring Doe’s request to used the preferred pronoun, it’s that the policy requiring the professor to honor Doe’s request also requires professors to honor horrible requests.

                    3. The hypo shows that if the decision what to call someone is voluntary, following a modest request doesn’t mean you have to follow an absurd one. But if it’s a requirement that one use someone else’s preferred form of address, then what’s the limiting factor? What allows one to decide that some requests are absurd?

          2. “His Lord Excellency Captain Butternipples.”

            I’m off to have new business cards printed up….

        2. Traveling in basketball is defined. It may not always be called as defined in the rulebook (though it could be), but it is almost always called consistent with the prevailing as-applied rule on traveling.

          In your other example, one could reasonably insist on calling someone Stanley (or calling Michael “Michael” instead of “Mike,” etc.). The more apt comparison, however, would be if Stanley asked the professor to call him Eugene. One might decide as a matter of comity to call Stanley “Eugene,” or one might reasonably decided that they will simply call Stanley “Stanley.”

          1. I have a friend named Stanley that goes by the common Southern name ‘Bubba.’ Once he tells people that’s what he goes by I have never seen one insist on calling him Stanley because that’s what’s on his birth certificate.

            “Traveling in basketball is defined.”

            Sure, and so was the policy advised here. But my point re: traveling is that you could make the same slippery slope, continuum argument with a huge leap within it to try to deny that any rule makes sense.

            1. “I have a friend named Stanley that goes by the common Southern name ‘Bubba.’ Once he tells people that’s what he goes by I have never seen one insist on calling him Stanley because that’s what’s on his birth certificate.”

              What’s your argument, that most people don’t mind calling Stanley Bubba therefore nobody should mind calling anybody anything?

              Or something else?

              1. The person talking with me mentioned someone with one name asking to go by another and “one might reasonably decided that they will simply call Stanley “Stanley.” I was mentioning that empirically as a matter of sociology that is rare and would be seen as strange behavior (probably even rude).

                “therefore nobody should mind calling anybody anything? ”

                The opposite, right? I’m responding to that kind of argument by pointing out that calling people entirely different names isn’t considered strange, so why not traditional pronouns for people that have different information on their birth certificate.

                1. “I’m responding to that kind of argument by pointing out that calling people entirely different names isn’t considered strange, so why not traditional pronouns for people that have different information on their birth certificate.”

                  Huh. On the other hand, calling people by pronouns that don’t reflect their sex is considered strange, so why shouldn’t we consider it strange to call people by entirely different names?

                  1. Quite the opposite. The person said that the apt analogy to this case is someone asking another to call them by a name entirely different than their ‘given’ name. And my example was to show that this isn’t considered a big deal, in fact it would be strange not to call them by their preferred name. So what’s the big deal with the preferred pronoun?

                    1. What’s the big deal with calling something who prefers to be referred to as ‘tree’ in such a manner?

                    2. The fundamental thing you’re missing, (Or perhaps dodging?) is that, while a name is an arbitrary designator, and so using somebody’s preferred name communicates nothing beyond who you’re referring to, pronouns, at least in English, are NOT arbitrary. They communicate something besides who you’re referring to, something that is capable of being false.

                      The whole goal here is to force somebody to communicate something they understand, (And reasonably so!) to be false. It’s to compel a lie.

                    3. The university doesn’t think it is a lie. And as the employer, they should usually get their way. I am not as yet persuaded forcing the professor to use Doe’s preferred pronoun affects the debate of controversial ideas.

                    4. How does forcing people on one side of a debate to use the other side’s chosen terminology NOT affect the debate?

                    5. I contend that requiring a professor to refer to a transgender student by her preferred pronoun isn’t part of the debate. For example, the requirement applies to interactions in calculus class where no debate is occurring.

                    6. “I contend that requiring a professor to refer to a transgender student by her preferred pronoun isn’t part of the debate. ”

                      Certainly is when the student is a man.

                      I’ve explained why: Pronouns don’t just identify a particular person, they communicate information about that person, and in this case, the exactly point being debated is whether the information communicated is actually true.

                      Forcing the prof to communicate this information is exactly the point of the demand.

                    7. I find it very odd that an academic debate over whether “she” refers to biological sex or gender identity occurs in calculus class.

                2. The person talking with me mentioned someone with one name asking to go by another and “one might reasonably decided that they will simply call Stanley “Stanley.” I was mentioning that empirically as a matter of sociology that is rare and would be seen as strange behavior (probably even rude).

                  Among friends, sure. In an institutional environment such as a school? I think that would be seen as quite normal behavior.

    2. If the university has a policy requiring a professor to use personal pronouns (which I doubt will ever happen), then yes (subject to a First Amendment challenge).

      1. Seems like you did not read the facts of this case.

    3. “if I decided my personal pronouns were ‘Excellency’, ‘Excellency’, ‘Excellency’”

      That doesn’t seem apt. In this case all that was asked was for them to use the pronouns we are familiar with but used for someone whose gender ‘on the birth certificate’ was different than what they preferred.

      1. It seems perfectly apt, you just don’t; like the logical conclusion your ideological preference leads to.
        https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/pride/8477100/keiynan-lonsdale-preferred-pronouns-tree

        1. It’s not apt to this case where it was about traditional pronouns but used for someone whose gender ‘on the birth certificate’ was different than what they preferred.

          1. It is perfectly apt, and this narrowmindedness about giving special preference to “traditional” pronouns over less traditional ones is not only arbitrary and capricious, but displays a callous disrespect for people who prefer to identify in a non traditional way.
            You must be some sort of provincial conservative.

            1. Yawn. No, it’s not perfectly apt, because, as I explained, what was asked for was much closer on the continuum to what he was already doing than the parade of horribles invoked were.

              1. If we are to respect students’ personal preferences, you don’t get to be the judge of which are ‘ok’ and which aren’t. Either we go by what the student prefers, or we don’t.
                Unless you happen to be some sort of provincial conservative who only accepts “traditional” pronouns.
                And as demonstrated in the link I provided, it’s not as if these non-traditional pronouns are mere hypotheticals. your conservative mindset just doesn’t allow you to accept that some people identify as ‘tree’ and want to be called that, We progressives know better than that.

                1. “you don’t get to be the judge of which are ‘ok’ and which aren’t.”

                  ‘Please play by my rules and argue as my intended Strawman, please! Oh, why oh why won’t you be the Strawman I’m telling you to be!’ Lol.

                  1. So it’s OK to discriminate against some gender identities?

                    1. What’s asked for in this case is a modest request, not analogous to the parade of horribles presented.

                  2. No strawman here at all. If the rule is “call students by their preferred pronoun’, there no reason to allow a conservative like you to decide which “traditional” pronouns are appropriate and will be respected, and which aren’t

                    1. Tree is not a pronoun, dude.

                    2. “Tree is not a pronoun, dude.”

                      Who died and made you Queen of what is and isn’t a pronoun? Language evolves, you know.

                    3. “Who died and made you Queen of what is and isn’t a pronoun?”

                      Who died and made you Queen of what is and isn’t a 2nd Amendment right? Law evolves. So therefore if you say may issue should be prohibited then you want everyone to carry a machine gun.

                      Again, I’m simply rejecting the parade of horribles because they are not this case.

      2. Nonbinary people use they/them pronouns, so maybe we can compromise with the Majestic Plural

        1. Well, there is some history and grammatical base for using they/them. It’s a problem precisely because we’ve embedded gender assumptions into our language at the most basic level (you might say it’s a systemic issue), such that anyone challenging or outside those assumptions is in a strange no person’s land language wise.

          1. Too bad individual nouns that can be used to refer to specific people, some sort of “proper” noun

          2. “It’s a problem precisely because we’ve embedded gender assumptions into our language at the most basic level.”

            No we haven’t. We have a perfectly good gender neutral pronoun.

            1. Which is?

              1. The neuter pronoun, of course. It.

                1. Yeah, there’s kind of a demeaning sense to calling people it. You might want to look at old racist language for that.

                  1. “Yeah, there’s kind of a demeaning sense to calling people it.”

                    Probably due to the bigoted assumption that people can only be ‘he’ or ‘she’, so ‘it’ was reserved for non-persons, right?

                    Claiming that calling people ‘it’ is demeaning is about as transphobic as it gets.

                    1. Of course, there’s always that proposed gender neutral pronoun composed of bits of “she”, “he”, and “it”. But I suspect it would be viewed as even more ‘transphobic’.

                    2. Brett,
                      you mean like s(he)+h(e)+it?

                    3. Got it in one.

      3. “That doesn’t seem apt. In this case all that was asked was for them to use the pronouns we are familiar with but used for someone whose gender ‘on the birth certificate’ was different than what they preferred.”

        That’s not what the policy required. And rightly so. A policy that recognized some pronouns but not others would raise all sorts of issues.

        1. In this case the matter came up because he referred to students with ‘Mr’ or Ms. or Sir, etc.,. He called Doe Sir, she complained and asked for female version. Then he was directed to modify pronouns but only in the sense of using traditional ones, no ‘made up’ ones.

          1. Bullshit. Nothing was communicate to him about traditional vs. non-traditional pronouns, or respecting the requests of students who wanted to be so addressed buy non-traditional ones. Read the facts of the case instead of making up shit as you go along.

            1. There were several formulations in the case. Doe asked that he ” use “feminine titles and pronouns.”” According to him later the Dean “advised” him to not use any gendered pronouns, he offered a compromise of using the last name of Doe but traditional pronouns, then to use preferred pronouns but note on the syllabus it was via compulsion, etc

              1. Read what I write, not what you imagine I wrote . Nothing was communicate to him about traditional vs. non-traditional pronouns, or respecting the requests of students who wanted to be so addressed buy non-traditional ones. Read the facts of the case instead of making up shit as you go along.

                1. “Doe approached Meriwether and “demanded” that Meriwether “refer to [Doe] as a woman” and use “feminine titles and pronouns.”

                  1. Keep up will, you? We are not addressing Doe’s demands, but university policy, which made no reference to traditional vs, non traditional pronouns.

                    1. Hmm, I thought you wanted me to read what you wrote? “Nothing was communicate to him about traditional vs. non-traditional pronouns”.

                      See, if you read the facts of the case this exact thing was ‘communicate’ to him by Doe.

          2. The professor was required to refrain from “refus[ing] to use a pronoun that reflects a student’s self-asserted gender identity”

            So it’s perfectly “apt” to hypothesize about applying the principle to “Excellency, Excellency, Excellency”

            1. No, because there are certainly less non-traditional ways to comply with that which are obvious.

              Tell you what, when the case comes down about someone demanding they be referred to as “Excellency, Excellency, Excellency” we can talk about it until the cows come home. But this is no more this case than that my right to buy a machine gun is ‘apt’ to NY State Rifle & Pistol Assoc..

              1. I already gave you an example of someone requesting they be referred to as ‘tree’. Only a conservative like you would deny them their preferred pronoun, based on archaic “tradition”.

                1. “I already gave you an example of someone requesting they be referred to as ‘tree’.”

                  That’s nice but is not this case. You have read the case, right?

                  1. I read this case, and I am following your ideology to its inevitable conclusion.
                    If the overriding factor regarding how we address people (and require our employees to do so!) is not the science of their biological sex but their personal preference as to how they identify and how they want to be called, why won’t you address the guy who identifies as ‘tree’ as such? What kind of a narrowminded conservative are you?

                    1. This case is about preferred titles and pronouns because we’ve gendered them already, the ‘conclusion’ that if we defer to people’s preferred titles and pronouns then we must defer to anything people want to be called is no more ‘inevitable’ than that if you allow gay men to get married then you have to allow a man to marry his dog or that if you prohibit ‘may issue’ carry permits then you have to allow people to carry machine guns.

      4. ““if I decided my personal pronouns were ‘Excellency’, ‘Excellency’, ‘Excellency’””
        In fact the choice is stupid in the context of this case.
        The appropriate words would be “we,” us,” Your Excellency,
        Although I prefer “we,” us,” Your Holiness,.”

        1. As you might expect in San Francisco,
          on today’s “Forum” the obviously gravitationally-challenged black guest, claimed that “we are fighting for equal rights for women of every gender.”

    4. I favor “His Imperial Majesty, Absolute Rule of the Known Universe”

    5. Some kid actually did that….

    6. Yes, and what happened to Judy Garland?

  2. You do not define me. I identify as rich. I expect everyone to send money, to respect my identity.

    I also identify as a female cheerleader. I demand to shower with them.

    I identify as a teacher. I demand the answer keys to the exams.

    I identify as a lawyer. I demand the law license without passing the bar exam. You have to respect my identity.

  3. All PC is case. Crush this stinking profession to save this country.

    Mandamus the Non Profit Office of the IRS to rescind the tax exemption.

  4. The vastly more important issue is the mental health of the individual that has been led to believe he/she is transgender.

    The mental health profession has a long and sordid history of pseudo mental diagnosis which this one following similar trend. The only difference is this pseudo diagnosis causes permanent irreversible damage.

    1. Of course, they said the same thing about gay persons (they’re just sick and need to be talked out if it, I mean, they won’t ever have kids and all the other fundamental heterosexual aspects of life)!

      How about letting individuals choose for themselves on these matters?

      1. “How about letting individuals choose for themselves on these matters?”

        Race too?

        1. That one may be more complicated. I know plenty of white persons who acted and associated as ‘black.’ No harm or foul to me, but I also understand that black persons have some complications at times for whites who ‘pass’ as black.

          Of course, we don’t tend to address people racially the way we do with gendered pronouns and titles.

          1. “No harm or foul to me, but I also understand that black persons have some complications at times for whites who ‘pass’ as black.”

            Sure. And some women (radical feminists, even) have some complications with men who ‘pass’ as women.

            1. Well, you actually knew “Of course, we don’t tend to address people racially the way we do with gendered pronouns and titles.” was doing most of the work there, didn’t you?

          2. “black persons have some complications at times for whites who ‘pass’ as black.”

            There was a time when white persons had some “complications” with black people who could pass as white too

      2. Transgender is misdiagnosed mental illness with a strong advocacy promoting a pseudo diagnosis.

        1. Since you just repeated yourself I’ll do the same: Of course, they said the same thing about gay persons (they’re just sick and need to be talked out if it, I mean, they won’t ever have kids and all the other fundamental heterosexual aspects of life)!

          1. I repeated myself since you were unable to grasp the obvious.

            Though you could be one of those supporting the fad / pseudo experimental diagnosis for the mentally ill.

            1. And I repeated myself since you were unable to grasp the obvious. Though you could be one of those supporting the fad / pseudo experimental diagnosis for the mentally ill to justify your bigotry.

              1. What other extreme delusions do we not classify as a mental illness?

                If this student thought she was Queen of England, would we make the prof say “Your majesty”?

                1. No,
                  Ma’am (not Marm) would be acceptable

                2. Superstition — delusional belief that fiction is true — currently gets a pass from many people. Lesser people, mostly. And fewer as we progress. But we still have enough vestigial clingers for their delusions to be respected and even privileged. Is that the answer you sought, Bob? Can you handle the truth?

                  1. The delusion is that a mentally ill person is actually suffers as a biologically transgender person and that sex reassignment surgery will cure the person’s mental illness.

                    Be in mind, the mental health profession has a long and sordid history of false diagnosises and fad treatments for the mentally ill. The transgender fad falls right in line with that sordid history. If the diagnosis was actually valid / true, there would be a sharp drop in the number of post sex reassignment suicides. Why would such a high percent of transgendered people come out later announcing that they regret the mistake.

      3. We define disorder as causing some impairment of function. The sole purpose of life is reproduction, to fulfill the self define identitu of outmr Creator, the DNA molecule.

        Queenie. Who is more impaired? A kid with intellectual disability and cerebral palsy, in a wheelchair, who flirts and would love to have sex with girls or you? According to our Creator not according to your sicko Marxist delusions?

    2. “The vastly more important issue is the mental health of the individual that has been led to believe he/she is transgender.”

      Are you equally concerned about ostensible adults who (claim to) believe fairy tales are true? Adult-onset superstition is a terrible affliction among the gullible and poorly educated.

      1. Their functions are superior. Religion is an asset, not an affliction.

        1. I am glad you are on their side.

          1. I am a Weberian. Religious societies are more prosperous. Muslim cultures, no matter how poor, have low crime rates. Religion is 10 times more effective than the law at persuading people to treat each other right, to go to work, and to take care of their families. It is an effective competitor to the law. I am an atheist to the extreme, but I respect and do not deride religion.

  5. It seems to me a critical aspect of the case is the ‘compromise’ that was worked out (“He would keep using pronouns to address most students in class but would refer to Doe using only Doe’s last name.”). The problem with it is that it singled Doe out for different treatment. I wonder if they could have just had him use the last name for everyone….

    1. seems you haven’t read the facts of the case, either.

      1. Nice try ZZ, but that’s literally a quote from the opinion.

        1. When I talk about reading the facts of the case, I mean ALL the facts, not just the ones you cherry pick,
          Specifically , I meant this part “addressing students [as Mr. or Ms.] is an important pedagogical tool in all of his classes, but especially in Political Philosophy where he and [the] students discuss
          many of the most controversial issues of public concern.”

          1. Don’t hurt your back moving those goalposts, ZZ.

            1. Haven’t moved them a inch, just reading much more carefully than you, apparently.

              1. Reading but not thinking it seems.

                1. Doing both, unlike you, who is apparently doing neither.
                  You did read the part where your suggestion was evaluated, and found wanting, yes? I mean, I did call out for you, seeing how you missed it the first time.

                  1. “You did read the part where your suggestion was evaluated, and found wanting, yes?”

                    Lol, 1. the part you quote wasn’t that, it was the professor stating his preference and 2. he later offered to give that up as part of another compromise.

                    So it’s you who are neither thinking (1) or reading (2) very carefully.

                    1. where did he offer to give up the use of Mr/Ms, other than with respect to Doe?

            2. Don’t hurt your back moving those goalposts, ZZ.

              Worst…sockpuppet….ever….

        2. The opinion of the court was quite clear that forbidding Meriweather to use any gendered pronouns or titles at any time was not a demand that could possible be met. It was unreasonable as it was bound to be violated if only unintentionally

    2. Doe had already demanded different treatment, he just didn’t get the particular different treatment he was demanding. If he’d been willing to be treated just like the rest of the students, there wouldn’t have been any case in the first place.

      1. No, Doe was not being referred to by Doe’s preferred titles and pronouns and the other students were.

        1. Doe was he only one asking to be referred to by a pronoun different from what his birth certificate said about his biology,

          1. Ah, the old ‘gays aren’t discriminated against, gay men can marry gay women just like straight men can’ argument!

            1. No, more like ‘I am a biological male, but I want special treatment – to compete against biological women in a powerlifting contest’,

              1. Sorry, the special treatment Doe asked for was to have the exact same type of pronouns and titles as the other students were being given.

                1. And he got the exact type of pronouns and titles as other students were being given.

                  1. And the gay men got the exact marriage options as the straight men, amirite?

                2. You don’t get to define the ‘special treatment’ in a way that suits you.
                  The special treatment Doe asked for was to be called a gendered pronoun inconsistent with his biological sex- just like the athlete in my hypo is asking to compete in a sex-segregated sporting event which is inconsistent with his biological sex.

                  1. In both examples (pronouns, single-sex sports), but for being a biological man, Doe would be treated the way she wants to be. Per Bostock, that raises the possibility of discrimination on the basis of sex. However, only the single sports case might cause harm to third parties (a competitive disadvantage for cisgender women).

                    1. That is false, as this case shows – a 3rd party (the prof) is being compelled to use speech he does not want to use.

                    2. That’s a fair point. On the other hand, assuming the professor does not a First Amendment right to not be compelled to refer to Doe by her preferred pronoun, it strikes me that the harm done to him is nowhere near as much as the harm done to the cisgender female athletes.

                    3. To be sure the harm done to actual XX athletes is worse.

        2. Doe was not referred to by any titles or pronouns. That led to no detrement to his performance in the class

          1. True, but nonetheless there was differential treatment.

            1. But, again, the whole mess started because Doe was demanding differential treatment: Everybody else was being referred to consistent with their actual biological identity, he was demanding to be referred to consistent with a fictional identity.

              1. Your conclusion that Doe was demanding differential treatment begs the question whether her gender identity is fictional.

                Moreover per Bostock, treating a transgender person differently necessarily means treating them differently because of their biological sex. In this case, but for being a biological male, Doe would have been referred to by her preferred pronoun.

            2. So what? All deserve individualized treatment.

              1. I think individualized treatment would result in the professor referring to Doe as “she.”

                1. Kind of amused the dude isn’t insisting the court anonymize him as “Roe”, actually.

    3. What do you think about the other proposed compromise, where the prof would use Doe’s (and presumably other transgender students) preferred pronouns, but put a note in the syllabus indicating that is is compelled speech?

      Personally I think that is where this case ran afoul of the first amendment, when the professor was denied the ability to distinguish compelled speech from his own

      1. I agree that’s a very strong point, as again for me the sticking point is the differential treatment in the classroom and I think that avoids it.

        1. Yeah, the different treatment is the main sticking point. It also didn’t escape my notice that the prof offered to call her by her last name, as opposed to her first (which was likely a chose female name, not her male birth name)

  6. Since this is a Sixth Circuit case, I wonder if anyone will address Judge Sutton’s decision in the Evans-Marshall case.

  7. I like the gender neutral pronoun it for these people, to respect their fluid identities.

    1. “it” should always be acceptable

  8. All the blah goes to show that either the unadorned last name or the gender neutral “comrade” is an appropriate way to avoid the problem.
    In writing for the direct objects I use hir and for the nominative i use sie.

    1. I prefer “you.”

      1. To each hir own

  9. If you try looking at this case free of the view (one most of us have these days) that one side or the other is obviously and horribly wrong and a way ought to be found to get the law to say so, and also if you get beyond the idea that this case is better mediated, and the parties incented to behave like adults and settle their differences, than getting resolved on the legal merits, this seems to me to be a difficult case and not so easy to resolve.

    Professors have a great deal of autonomy. But universities have some ability to set rules for classroom conduct, and freedom of speech means that neither professors nor students get to do whatever they want. After all, professors can’t simply change the course content mid-course or talk about whatever they feel like (occassional irrelevant anecdotes are expected, but not the whole substance of the course.) Students come in with an expectation, set by the university, that they will learn certain things and certain things will be discussed. So there are some limits on what professors can do to manage their classrooms. Sweeney v. New Hampshire held that at least for a private university, academic freedom is the university’s freedom, not the professor’s.

    From a strictly objective viewpoint, it is by no means clear which side of the line this falls on.

    It would seem that a compromise where the professor could adress the student in a way that neither affirms nor denies the student’s viewpoint would be an obvious practical “we’re all adults here” resolution. But while this sort of imperfect but practical solution could easily be done as a result of mediation, it is by no means clear that it could be imposed by a court order based on the law.

    1. I remain at a loss how academic freedom or open debate is at risk when the a university requires a calculus professor to refer to students by their preferred pronoun during calculus class.

      1. I remain at a loss how academic freedom or open debate is at risk when the a university requires a calculus professor to say things that are factually inaccurate

        FIFY.

        1. It looks like you are having difficulty distinguishing between matters of fact and matters of opinion.

          1. It looks to us like you are the one having that difficulty.

            1. Whether the pronoun “she” should refer to biological sex or gender identity is a matter of opinion.

              1. “Whether the pronoun “she” should refer to biological sex or gender identity is a matter of opinion.”
                Assuming ad argumentum that this is correct, it is the prof’s opinion that it should refer to biological sex. Who are you, or the university, to compel him to change his opinion to conform to yours or theirs?

                1. The university is the employer. Employers typically have wide latitude in controlling on-the-job speech of their employees.

                  And, I think you mean “arguendo” (assumed true for the sake of argument) rather than “ad argumentum” (argument against the person – ad hominem).

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