Westminster College Canvas administration members added options for students to specify personal pronouns on the online website.
Students can choose from a drop-down menu that provides options such as “he/him/his,” “she/her/hers,” “they/them/theirs,” etc. It also includes more gender-neutral pronouns such as “Ze/Hir/Hirs.”
To do this, students can go to their profile setting in Canvas and choose ‘Edit Profile.’ The personal pronoun options are available underneath the name.
From there, pronouns will be displayed in parentheses alongside students’ names on the online site.
The movement toward recognizing pronouns
The change was made after a group of students campaigned for faculty, staff and students to recognize personal pronouns in 2013, according to the Westminster Canvas Admin Rodney Glore.
“That summer, Canvas held its annual conference here in Utah,” Glore said in an email. “I spoke to the Vice President of Sales, and one of the original 50 employees, about the personal pronouns movement on our campus, and spreading across the nation.”
Glore said that was the year he took on the position, and he explained at the conference that if Canvas is student-centric, there should be a feature allowing for personal pronouns.
Some members at the conference pushed back against the addition at first, arguing Canvas views users as gender-neutral.
The problem was overlooked as it was considered a non-issue, Glore said.
“As years went by, and positions changed, I felt it was a losing battle as an admin,” Glore said. “I suggested to students on campus to submit a feature idea, as this is what Canvas uses to determine what changes they make each year.”
However, there was a lack of submissions, he said.
“In April 2016, a student by the name of Constance Fuller, who didn’t identify what institution they were from, submitted the request,” Glore said.
After 12,510 views of the page and 411 votes in approval, personal pronouns were added to the Canvas page.
A public suggestion leads to Canvas change
On this public request, there were 60 comments of community members and Westminster students adding concerns and suggestions to the move.
This is where the implementation of more gender-neutral pronouns such as “Ze” or “Xe” came into consideration.
“If this gets implemented, make sure to add to the list of possibilities ze or xe,” wrote Michaela Rozani in the comment section. “I’m not well informed on the topic and I guess one should research the currently used pronouns for transgender people but I encountered some variety of pronouns lately and it is a very sensitive and important topic.”
Other comments suggested the option for students to manually input personal pronouns rather than choosing from a drop-down menu.
Only giving a drop-down menu can limit options, especially for students who identify with multiple pronouns, some students say. It can also limit those that identify with pronouns that aren’t offered, according to a comment left by Linnea Thompson.
The first step to more representation
The original suggestion was left by Constance Fuller, noting the importance for students to have the representation on the learning management system.
With the change, Rodney Glore said it will allow for students, faculty and staff to set personal pronouns. However, no student is forced to adopt the change.
“What I observed over the years, Westminster has always believed in creating a safe space for students,” Glore said in an email “This is a simple act to show inclusivity on campus.”
Glore said he hopes this is the first step to adding personal pronouns across all school systems.
“Students can make a change on our campus and throughout the world, but they have to unleash their bottled-up passions,” Glore said. “It only took one person to submit the request, and others followed behind them.”