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A professor who failed a student for using the term “biological woman” in an assignment was officially reprimanded and ordered to complete free speech training.
Adjunct instructor Melanie Nipper, 29, received an official reprimand from the University of Cincinnati weeks after she gave her student Olivia Krolczyk a ‘zero’ on her final project proposal for using the term “biological woman” in Nipper’s class, Gender in Popular Culture.
Obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer, the June reprimand stated, “To prevent any further violation of [the free speech] policy, you must complete training on the requirements of the Campus Free Speech Policy. Through the end of Academic Year 2024/2025, you must submit all syllabi to … me at least two weeks prior to the beginning of classes for review and approval.”
The reprimand continued, threatening Nipper with termination. “Any other violations of UC policy may be subject to … termination. You are reminded that … your employment may be terminated with or without cause.”
The reprimand was issued against Nipper by Ashley Currier, the head of the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Cincinnati.
The professor appealed the decision five days later, stating that her “restriction on harmful speech” was “necessary to ensure a safe learning environment” and that “the topic itself was inappropriate as it targeted trans women as a source of oppression for cis women in sports.”
Nipper continued, “Additionally, as the class has students that identify as gender non-conforming and/or trans, I felt it was necessary to educate her regarding inclusive language to ensure a safe learning environment for other students.”
The incident that prompted the reprimand received national attention when Krolczyk posted a video on TikTok describing how Nipper gave her a failing grade because “biological woman” was, according to the professor, “trans-exclusionary.”
For a final project, Nipper asked students to pick a research topic on feminism, and Krolczyk proposed to study women’s rights in athletics, from securing women’s place in the Olympic Games to trans-identifying men in women’s sports.
Nipper told the sophomore chemistry major, “Olivia, this is a solid proposal. However, the terms “biological women” are exclusionary and are not allowed in this course as they further reinforce heteronormativity. Please reassess your topic and edit it to focus on women’s rights (not just “females”) and I’ll regrade.”
“How am I supposed to do my project if I can’t use the term ‘biological women?’” Krolczyk questioned in her TikTok video.
The sophomore reported the incident to the school, and the university’s Gender Equality Office agreed to have a different professor grade Krolczyk’s assignment. Krolczyk eventually finished Nipper’s class with an A.
This controversy comes amid a broader clash between LGBTQ activists and the principles of free speech, as an Oxford college recently threatened students with expulsion if they use the wrong gender pronouns, and as the U.S. Supreme Court reinforced free speech protections in 303 Creative v. Elenis.