TCU Senate receives gender pronoun training, discusses funding, updates

Nino Testa, director of the LGBT Center, opened the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate meeting last night with a workshop on gender pronouns and how to create a safer environment on Tufts’ campus.

Every senator introduced themselves with their pronoun series at the beginning of the meeting. Testa then speaking about the various contexts and situations in which Senate would have to use pronouns.

“The contexts are many,” Testa said. “All across the board, we use pronouns for everyone, and the social situations in which we find ourselves will determine that in a lot of ways.”

Testa referenced a quote from someone who had faced embarrassment regarding the misusage of gender pronouns to highlight the importance of correct pronoun usage.

“It is difficult to not make assumptions about what pronouns someone takes,” he said. “I found it striking because each of us has a unique relationship to our pronouns, and it represents a sense of self … It might not resonate with us, but if someone started using the wrong pronouns, it probably won’t feel so great.”

Testa then went through common pronouns that many are likely to encounter, such as the “he” series, the “she” series, the “ze/zir” series, the “ze/hir” series and the “they” series. He explained that non-binary pronouns are legitimate and need to be respected, and that pronouns change over time. When in doubt, it is safer to refer people with the “they” series pronouns rather than assigning certain pronouns, he said.

One part of the workshop consisted of an activity where a sheet of paper was passed around with Cinderella’s name with an assigned certain pronoun. Senate members broke up into pairs and were instructed to hold a conversation about Cinderella using the assigned pronouns.

Afterward, members of Senate reflected on the level of difficulty of the activity, with various members spoke about the difficulty of breaking habit and not assigning a gender role to Cinderella. Some senators who were assigned to talk about Cinderella using the “he” series said that it was difficult not to give Cinderella the gender and sexual identity of a gay man.

According to various senators, the activity highlighted the fact that the hyper-awareness of using the correct pronoun of the individual took away from the quality of communication and conversation itself.

Testa concluded his workshop with tips that Senate members could use to make others feel more comfortable, such as not making assumptions about people’s pronouns and allowing for various possibilities regarding an individual’s pronoun. He said that Senate should also avoid gendering people during group discussions and to ask for pronoun information privately.

After Testa’s presentation, TCU President Brian Tesser echoed the importance of correct pronoun usage.

“It’s important for people to be educated about these issues and speak using the correct language,” Tesser, a senior, said. “I think it’s important to have in [Senate]’s working knowledge in how we discuss things throughout the year.”

After the workshop, junior TCU Treasurer Shai Slotky opened the Treasury‘s supplementary funding requests.

The French Society appealed for supplementary funding of $175 for institutional membership of the French Cultural Center of Boston. Initially, the Allocations Board (ALBO) had recommended $0 in supplementary funding for the group, highlighting the fact that funding for academics is beyond the TCU Senate. However, after much debate, Senate overturned ALBO’s recommended amount and voted 18-9-1 to pass funding of $175.

Senate then approved funding of $1,804 for Tufts Amnesty International, $201.1 for the International Club and $240 for Mixed Martial Arts.

Tufts Hemispheres appealed for their entire budget because they missed out on initial budgeting with ALBO and requested $6,682 according to SlotkySenate ultimately approved ALBO’s recommended amount of $6,222 for the publication.

Senate then opened the bylaws, the rules and responsibilities that detail the operations of Senate to make amendments for the role of the TCU Historian.

According to the proposed amendment, the TCU Historian will oversee communication between Senate and any person or persons outside of TCU in their role as the public relations officer of Senate. The amendment also states that representatives from Senate to outside organizations will report to the TCU Senate Historian, and the historian will be responsible for maintaining the Senate portion of the TCU website in conjunction with the TCU Webmaster.

According to the current TCU Historian Max Hirsch, a sophomore, the purpose of this amendment was to quantify and clarify the roles of the historian. The amendment to the bylaws passed by a vote of 26-1-2.

Toward the end of the meeting, Senate proceeded with general updates. According to Tesser, Senate is currently looking into the specific departments that contribute money to the Late Night Dining program to better understand what Senate can do to financially support and sustain the program.

Tesser wrapped up the meeting with the results from the campus shuttle survey that went out in the “Two-minute Thursdays” Senate update videos. The results have led to plans for members of Senate to meet with public safety administrators in the coming weeks to discuss issues that students raised in the survey, including the shuttle’s unreliability in its time schedule.