The Graduate Center at the City University of New York will no longer use courtesy titles -- "Mr." and "Ms." -- in official, written communication to prospective students and third parties in the interests of gender inclusivity.
But some faculty members at the graduate school are worried they're being told what they can say, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In a Jan. 16 memo to Graduate Center faculty, reported by the Journal, interim Provost Louise Lennihan wrote that the new policy was part of the school's "ongoing effort to ensure a respectful, welcoming and gender-inclusive learning environment ... and to accommodate properly the diverse population of current and prospective students."
The Graduate Center told The Huffington Post that the memo was actually aimed at advising faculty about the school's new preferred-name policy, which allows students to go by a moniker other than their legal name on certain university documents such as course rosters, student identification cards and student email addresses. The students simply have to fill out a form.
Faculty are not being told they can't use courtesy titles in emailing with students or others, the school told HuffPost, and the courtesy title policy has no impact on verbal speech.
That was not the impression some professors received, according to the Journal. They thought the policy might cover all their communications -- written and verbal, formal and casual -- with their students.
"My interpretation was that I was being asked to adhere to this policy, as were the other professors who received the letter," Juliette Blevins, a linguistics professor at the Graduate Center, told the Journal.
Faculty speech has not been restricted, Graduate Center President Chase F. Robinson told HuffPost in a statement. "The memo that was issued on January 16 was intended to provide guidance to administrators in addressing members of the community; as such, it offered advice and did not set, nor does it reflect, CUNY policy," he said.