Pomona students voted Tuesday, Sept. 20, to edit the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) constitution so that it contains only gender-neutral language. The vote comes on the heels of a ASPC Senate vote on Aug. 30 to make similar changes to the ASPC bylaws.
According to ASPC Commissioner of Campus Life and Activities (CCLA) theory friction practice PO ’12, the changes were made to accommodate students who don’t adhere to a specific gender pronoun.
“There are people like myself who don’t use gender pronouns, and there are trans people, and people who are transgender,” practice said. “These pronouns function differently for different people.”
“The he-she pronoun ‘conglomeration’ was only used because ‘he’ was normalized as the normal pronoun,” practice continued. “Our culture’s changing, and our language is changing with it.”
Tuesday’s vote eliminates the use of gendered pronouns such as “she,” “he,” “his,” and “her” in the ASPC constitution and bylaws and instead uses formal nouns and gender-neutral pronouns such as “they,” “their,” “that student,” and “the commissioner” to refer to individuals. As the ASPC bylaws are under the sole jurisdiction of the ASPC Senate (and don’t require a school-wide vote to modify), the senators voted to change sections in the bylaws from: “S/he is responsible for his/her…” to “They are responsible for their…”
As for the proposal for the constitution, to avoid disputes over the linguistic legality of using “they” in the singular form, instances of “S/he is responsible for his/her…” were altered to the effect of “That commissioner is responsible for that student’s…” There is currently no documented use of “they” as a singular pronoun in the changes to the constitution.
The original proposal to modify the language of the ASPC bylaws and constitution was motivated by the Senate’s desire for inclusivity and consistency as an organization that seeks to represent the entire student body. According to some Senators, expressions rooted in a system of gender binaries inherently exclude those who do not identify on either extreme.
“There are a lot of students who do not identify as male or female or who aren’t using the pronouns “he” or “she,” so in that way, we are trying to be consistent with representing the student body as ASPC,” said Sarah Applebaum, ASPC Commissioner of Community Relations. “Ideally, it would also hopefully generate more understanding and awareness of the fact that there are students who are using gender-neutral pronouns and help promote a more inclusive and supportive campus for gender-nonconforming, queer, transgender students.”
ASPC’s effort to make its constitutional language gender-neutral is another step taken by the ASPC Senate to make Pomona a less gender-restrictive campus. The ASPC Senate promoted gender-neutral housing in Pomona College residence halls two years ago and pushed to increase the availability of gender-neutral bathrooms in residence halls and buildings. Other schools at the 5Cs are following suit: Scripps College issued gender-neutral diplomas last year to some members of the Class of 2011 for the first time in history.
“Students, on the whole, are more educated about queer issues, and more students are using gender-neutral pronouns than when the first constitution and bylaws were originally adopted,” Applebaum said. “Just as campuses become more inclusive and as people are more aware of the options that they have in terms of pronouns… we are at a place in our campus where students are aware of the importance of inclusive language.”