Stanford Faculty Advised to Drop Gendered Pronouns, Stop Calling On So Many Males in Class

In a Google document forwarded to faculty members of the Computer Science Department at Stanford University, Professor Cynthia Bailey Lee outlined a list of “inclusive community” guidelines for computer science instructors to consider while preparing this year’s class curriculum.

“This list is designed to be something you can put on your wall and glance at from time to time. Many of the tips are little things you could do on any given day in a few minutes. Please feel free to share widely,” Lee posted to Facebook, encouraging students and faculty members to send in their own suggestions as well.

The document begins by asking the lecturers to have students “email you to introduce themselves,” naming their core values and how those values relate to computer science. In the middle of the term, they are to “congratulate” the college-age students who do well on their homework assignments and “show- the class that students can still pass the course even if they did poorly.”

“Start class today by telling the students you’re proud of them and how hard they are working,” the lecturers are told.

Students who are either female or minority are to be given extra attention both in and out of the classroom, because they “often fear the worst about their position relative to the class,” according to the list of guidelines.

“Personally invite a woman or a minority student who did well in your class to major in CS, apply to an internship, or go to grad school,” the lecturers are instructed. They are additionally told to “remove very masculine or heavily CS-stereotyped movie posters” and “write a tally of how many times you call on students of different genders in class” because “people of all genders are prone to calling on men more often.”

The guidelines instruct professors to “review today’s lecture slides to make sure that your slides are free from gendered pronouns, especially those used in ways that conform to stereotype,” and “review today’s lecture slides to make sure that stock photos and illustrations with people in them include diverse races and genders in non-stereotyped roles.”

“Use of ‘they’ (and their/them) as a singular pronoun is now widely accepted as a neutral alternative, and better than the awkward ‘he or she’ construction because it also includes genderqueer and non-binary,” the document explains.

Names such as “Jane Doe and John Smith” are too non-inclusive for examples in course lectures, the document states. The lecturers are advised to use names from a “broader selection” such as “Juan, Neha, Maria, Minseo, and Mohammed.”

In a “General Do and Don’t Advice” section, the lecturers are told to “never say, ‘This UI is so easy your mom could use it’ or ‘How would you explain this to your mom?’ or other phrases that equate women with lack of tech savvy.” Terms such as “boys” and “girls” are to be avoided in examples as well.

The lecturers are told to “ensure that you and your TAs call each student by their preferred name and their correct gender pronoun—including allowing students to write their preferred name on homework and exams—even if these do not match their current legal or registrar records of name and sex.”

Finally, Lee urges the lecturers to not ask questions when female students ask for course accommodations because they were sexually assaulted. The lecturers are to give a simple response such as “I believe you” and “do everything necessary to accommodate that student.”

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