Indiana Daily Student

Canvas introduces option to include preferred pronouns in profile

Buttons featuring different pronouns along with fill-in-the-blank pins are displayed at a 2019 GeekGirlCon event. The e-learning software Canvas now allows students to choose and display their preferred pronouns.
Buttons featuring different pronouns along with fill-in-the-blank pins are displayed at a 2019 GeekGirlCon event. The e-learning software Canvas now allows students to choose and display their preferred pronouns.

At the beginning of the spring semester, Canvas gave users the option to add their preferred pronouns to their profile and in Name Coach. The change was announced in a message that appeared on the Canvas dashboard and included a link to instructions on how to select your preferred pronouns from a drop down list of “he/him,” “she/her,” “they/them” and “not listed/ask me.”

The new update was intended to make Canvas more inclusive for non-binary and trans students, but some trans students have mixed reactions. Some think the new feature was not broadcasted effectively, and others say there is not enough customization for students who use pronouns outside of the options given. 

[Related: Trans students at IU seek better inclusivity during online instruction during fall 2020 semester]

Senior Atticus Jolley, whose pronouns are they/he, feels this feature is a good step toward normalizing the use of including pronouns in profiles, but also noted that Canvas did not give a proper introduction to the feature or an explanation of its significance. 

“It would have been good to have given a better heads up about it before the semester started to get people more aware of why they should include their pronouns, even when they’re not trans,” Jolley said. “I think it’s good that they gave us this feature, but I think it would have been better if they explained why.”

Jolley also feels that the option not listed/ask me, can be alienating to those who have multiple pronouns or those who use something other than they/he/she. 

Aviel McDermott, a graduate student studying environmental sustainability whose pronouns are they/he, was not initially aware of the feature. He feels it may be better that there wasn’t a large announcement because it might have prevented major backlash from students and faculty that feel announcing preferred pronouns is redundant. 

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea, I think we just live in a world where there’s a lot of hate against trans people,” McDermott said.

McDermott has not yet chosen to include his pronouns in his Canvas profile. He feels that the way pronouns are always displayed next to your name can feel alienating when the default is to not have pronouns listed at all. 

“I think it would be best to have an opt out function where everyone gets pronouns and you have to opt out of it rather than opt in,” McDermott said.

Junior Thomas Rainbolt, who is cisgender, feels this feature could be a great opportunity for trans students. He has elected to include his pronouns in his Canvas profile and hopes that it will become a normal practice in allyship with trans and nonbinary students. 

“I hope that it will become normalized,” Rainbolt said. “There was a time that I didn’t feel comfortable using my pronouns because no one used them except for people who weren’t using the ones assigned at birth.”

Rainbolt and Jolley both said they are some of the only people in their classes who have included pronouns in their profile. 

“If no one’s going to utilize this, is it really doing anything to normalize it?” Rainbolt said. 

McDermott, Rainbolt and Jolley agree that everyone should identify their pronouns in their Canvas profile, regardless of their gender. McDermott said this would normalize the inclusion of pronouns in other spaces such as social media and workplaces.

“If a student is cis and wants to be an ally to the trans community, they should put pronouns next to their display name to normalize it,” Mcdermott said. “It would make it so that if a trans student wants to put them in their display name it’s not necessarily a marker saying ‘I’m a trans student.’”

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