Talking Gender at the Teaching & Learning Symposium

by Colin Davis

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On Monday, April 24th, I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the Teaching and Learning Symposium on the Seattle campus of the University of Washington. I was with Karen Rosenberg, Erik Echols, and Laura Burgher from the Writing and Communication Center at UW Bothell.  It was an afternoon of thought-provoking presentations, from both the keynote speakers and the other faculty and staff attendees.

During our poster session, we presented on “Gender Justice in the Writing Center: Engaging with Gender-Neutral Pronouns.”  Our poster sparked quite a bit of interest and response, ranging from the curious to the challenging, from the shocked to the supportive.  Some commentators were appreciative of the work we’ve done at the WaCC to support gender-neutral pronouns, while others were perplexed at the need for it.  The conversational ground we covered with observers included free speech and hate speech, the role of writing centers in social justice, and the fluctuating nature of language in response to cultural changes.

There were also cookies.  🙂

All in all, we had a marvelous time.  It was a pleasure to meet and chat with so many of our colleagues from the UW schools, whose commitment to a truly progressive education was inspiring.  We were especially pleased to touch base with our peers from the Writing Center at UW Tacoma, who presented on their excellent work around issues of race and language.  We were also fortunate enough to network with a number of folks interested in keeping in touch with us about our work with issues of social justice and communication in the academic context.  As part of this ongoing discourse, the WaCC is in the process of drafting a position statement related to gender-inclusive language in in the university setting.  Watch this space for further details!

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