After learning that students at Loyola Marymount University allegedly were required to include their preferred pronouns on assignments and are given the option to change their name and gender identity, an alumni-led group is petitioning the Los Angeles-area Catholic school to stop its “institutional commitment to gender ideology."
The petition partly stems from an email that a professor, Christopher Miller, allegedly sent to students on Sept. 9. The content of the email was posted on Twitter Nov. 12 by Libs of Tik Tok, a popular conservative Twitter account.
Loyola Marymount's website identifies Miller as Bhagwan Mallinath Assistant Professor of Jainism and Yoga Studies. Jainism is an ancient Indian religion.
“I added a new syllabus to Brightspace and the one major change we all need to take note of is that all are required to include their gender pronouns next to their name in their blog posts,” the alleged email reads. “I will count this toward your grade when I check for your name each time I grade the blogs.” Brightspace is a software platform for online teaching.
“Our own LMU Provost links this article in his own signature after he identifies his pronouns,” Miller allegedly wrote. “For those who are not aware of why this is important please take a few minutes to read this article.”
A professor at Loyola Marymount University requires students to add pronouns next to their name on assignments. He writes “I will count this toward your grade” pic.twitter.com/IlVD3AgEcP
— Libs of Tik Tok (@libsoftiktok) November 12, 2021
The linked article, addressing the importance of respecting one’s personal choice of pronouns, appears on a website called MyPronouns.org.
“Using someone’s correct personal pronouns is a way to respect them and create an inclusive environment, just as using a person’s name can be a way to respect them,” the article states.
“Just as it can be offensive or even harassing to make up a nickname for someone and call them that nickname against their will, it can be offensive or harassing to guess at someone’s pronouns and refer to them using those pronouns if that is not how that person wants to be known,” the article continues. “Or, worse, actively choosing to ignore the pronouns someone has stated that they go by could imply the oppressive notion that intersex, transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people do not or should not exist.”
The petition calls on Loyola Marymount to stop promoting gender ideology and to renew its "institutional commitment to Roman Catholicism." The group behind the effort is called RenewLMU, which describes itself as “an alliance of students, alumni, faculty, donors, and other LMU supporters who seek to strengthen LMU’s Catholic mission and identity.”
“I was a student at LMU, and I would never have wanted a professor to try to force me to do something against my Catholic faith,” Anne Rosen, a 1985 Loyola Marymount graduate who wrote the petition, told CNA.
“This professor's actions contradict the Catholic faith because they both presuppose and reinforce what Pope Francis calls ‘gender ideology,’" she added.
RenewLMU has another petition underway calling for the university to re-install a statue of St. Junípero Serra on the school's Westchester campus. The university said in a statement to CNA that it removed the statue of the Franciscan missionary for repairs in the summer of 2020 and has since formed a task force to "invite feedback from the community and to develop recommendations on future plans." Those deliberations are still underway, the statement said.
The petition regarding preferred pronouns and gender identity includes a screenshot of what purports to be an email insignia from the dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, Robbin D. Crabtree, which includes her pronouns and a link labeled “why they matter.”
CNA emailed Miller and the university's media office seeking comment but did not receive a response prior to publication. CNA was unable to reach Crabtree or Thomas Poon, Loyola Marymount's executive vice president and provost, for comment.
Another catalyst for Rosen’s petition is Loyola Marymount's “Chosen Name Project.” The project encourages students to choose a name, preferred gender, and pronoun identity, which all can be changed on a student’s personal information page on a school system called “PROWL,” a self-service portal for students.
A chosen name is “simply a name that a person uses in their daily life that is different than the name appearing on their legal records,” according to the university website. Transgender and “gender non-conforming” members of the college, students who use a nickname, and international students are some examples of students who “are most likely to benefit from” using a “chosen name,” according to the website.
The “Chosen Name Project” also includes a video put out by campus ministry staff that encourages students to reflect on their name. Among the questions the video poses is, “Can this name of mine represent my mission in life? Or do I need another name to give me clarity of mission to this world?”
At odds with Pope's teaching
The petition on RenewLMU.com reads: “Forcing students to declare their pronouns violates the promotion of justice because it violates the right of free speech. The right of free speech, which LMU says it protects, includes the right to remain silent, the right not to say something that you do not want to say. Compelled speech is not free speech.”
The petition says that forcing students to declare their pronouns also violates students' privacy.
“Some students may want to remain private about their gender identity,” the petition says. “It is invasive and inappropriate for a professor to force his students to publicly declare their sexual orientation or their gender identity.”
The “service of faith” is also being violated, the petition says, because forcing students to declare their preferred pronouns signals endorsement of what Pope Francis has called "gender ideology.”
“The Pope teaches that the human body, as male or female, is part of the good gift of God’s creation. Any university whose mission statement includes the service of faith should protect students of faith from being forced to act against their faith,” the petition says.
Pope Francis has denounced gender ideology several times during his pontificate. In one instance, in an address to Polish bishops in July 2016, the pope stated that “in Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these — I will call it clearly by its name — is [the ideology of] ‘gender.’
"Today, children — children! — are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money," the pope continued. "These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this is terrible!”
The petition states that “we believe, as the Catholic Church believes, that all human beings deserve to be respected by everyone and protected against unjust discrimination,” and adds that “we should love all human beings, including every person with gender dysphoria.”
The petition continues: “Protecting people does not mean forcing other people to act contrary to their faith or their consciences. And loving all people does not mean speaking or acting contrary to the truth. As St. Edith Stein taught, ‘Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth.’”
The petition had collected 248 signatures as of Tuesday morning, Nov. 30, RenewLMU said.