Failing to use “gender-sensitive language” will lead to lower marks on a University of Hull course, it has been revealed.
A senior lecturer at the university said any student not using such terms would be challenged.
Other academics questioned the move – on a religious activism course – with one describing it as “linguistic policing”.
In January it was revealed that students at the University of Sussex are being discouraged from using ‘he’ or ‘she’, with ‘they’ the preferred pronoun instead.
. . . a coercive tool to impose a conformist outlook
The Hull policy was uncovered by The Sunday Times in a document which states: “Language is important and highly symbolic. In your essay, I thus expect you to be aware of the powerful and symbolic nature of language and use gender-sensitive formulations. Failure to use gender-sensitive language will impact your mark.”
A senior lecturer at the university said: “Should any student use language which is not deemed gender-neutral, they will be offered feedback as to why. Deduction of marks is taken on a case-by-case basis.”
Responding, Frank Furedi, an emeritus professor of sociology, said: “This linguistic policing is used as a coercive tool to impose a conformist outlook.”
Emeritus professor Judith Baxter of Aston University backed the principle of gender-neutral language but said penalising people for not using it is regressive.
“Taking this regulatory, punitive attitude to the whole business of gender neutrality is a backward step.”
The University of Hull has not yet responded to the criticism.
University of Sussex Students’ Union’s policy, revealed earlier this year, states that “the gender-neutral pronoun ‘they’ should be used as opposed to ‘he’ or ‘she’”, where an individual has not expressly stated their preferred pronoun.
The policy states that desired pronouns should be “stated at the beginning of every meeting, even if they have been stated at previous meetings”.
‘Zie’ and ‘Ey’
In December 2016 it was uncovered that students at the University of Oxford could be expelled if they fail to use ‘gender neutral’ pronouns.
Under the university’s behaviour guidelines, students and staff are required to use the gender neutral pronouns ‘zie’ or ‘ey’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ when referring to transsexual people.
The guidelines state that “deliberately using the wrong name or pronoun in relation to a transgender person” may amount to harassment.