New York college fires employees for including their pronouns in work emails

A small New York Christian university fired two employees who refused to remove gender pronouns from their email signatures. The university’s move is being criticised by the alumini.

Raegan Zelaya and Shua Wilmot, residence hall directors at Houghton University, were fired from their positions after they put “she/her” and “he/him” in their signatures in April, reported The Independent.

In the termination letter to Zelaya, the school wrote it fired her shortly before the end of the semester “as a result of your refusal to remove pronouns in your email signature”. One other reason that the school gave for terminating her is that she criticised the decision in the student newspaper.

The termination letter is being circulated widely on social media.

A spokesperson for the university, which is affiliated with the conservative branch of the Methodist Church, told The New York Times on Friday that the school “has never terminated an employment relationship based solely on the use of pronouns in staff email signatures.”

The spokesperson added, “Over the past years, we’ve required anything extraneous be removed from email signatures, including Scripture quotes.”

Neither Zelaya nor Wilmot is transgender. The former residence hall directors said their decision to put the pronouns in their bios was meant both as a gesture of inclusivity, and because people often weren’t able to tell their genders from their first names over email.

Wilmot defended his decision in a Facebook post last month.

“I would just like to express how profoundly grateful I am to have enough privilege to stand up for truth and justice at the expense of a job,” he wrote. “If any of you are ever in a position where you believe your employer is asking you to do something unjust or unethical, please reach out to me and others for encouragement and empowerment,” wrote Wilmot in a Facebook post.

An April open letter from Houghton University alumni, with nearly 600 signatures, criticised the firings as part of what they saw as a broader turn at the school against multiculturalism, highlighting the recent closure of a multicultural student centre.

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