By SK Doherty, Staff Writer and Contest Entrant
This article was originally featured in our November 2020 magazine, (p.15) released 30 November 2020, which you can view here. This author was the recipient of our $150 article contest prize that we promoted during this edition.
UNC students begin their collegiate socialization by attending an orientation session, where starting this year, they were forced to introduce themselves with their pronouns.
When I received my acceptance letter to one of the best public universities in the nation, I was surrounded with congratulations and words of encouragement. All I had ever heard from alumni and current students was that UNC-Chapel Hill was exactly what colleges should be shaped like: welcoming, inviting, supportive… if you conform to exactly what the university wants you to believe. Faculty and peers are indeed welcoming, up until you decide to think for yourself and find that you happen to disagree with them.
I realized Carolina’s unique approach to inclusivity during freshman orientation. After being put into small groups, we were told to go around and introduce ourselves using our name and preferred pronouns. Thinking that this was not only obvious, but also extremely unnecessary to address unless the situation is ambiguous, I just introduced myself as SK and gave a fun fact about myself to break the ice. Seconds after I finished, I was quickly reminded to explicitly state what pronouns I went by (she/her, for anyone that’s curious!) to the group- you know, just in case they were unable to tell from my waist length hair and hoop earrings.
I appreciate being at a school that acknowledges different types of people and different ideas, but I begin to lose respect when ideas are forcibly pushed onto me. If the purpose of stating pronouns is to create a more open environment, why does that same atmosphere become cold and judgmental if you choose not to participate?
Personally, I do not think that my pronouns are such a core characteristic of who I am that I feel the need to introduce myself using them. On the other hand, people are praised for putting these labels in their bios or on their Zoom nametags, but the second that I say I feel uncomfortable putting so much emphasis on these identification factors I am seen as close-minded. A popular counterargument is that pronouns are someone’s identity, but I would like to think that I have more defining characteristics that make me the person that I am than two words.
If I introduced myself based on how I identify, why stop at pronouns? Why not include sexuality, race, ethnicity, age group, socioeconomic ranking, relationship status, and clubs I am a member of too?
It is because these things do not define my personality and have no impact on who I am as a person. I believe that my name is the most important thing when introducing myself, and there is no reason that pronouns should be expected to be explicitly stated. If UNC is an inclusive and supportive university, why am I looked down on for not having the obvious ‘she/her’ in my Instagram bio even though it’s my choice in how I want to represent myself?
Sadly, the mentality of having to be progressive to be seen as a decent person at Carolina did not end after orientation. Knowing this was an election year, I thought I knew what to expect from other peers in early November, but one thing that I was not prepared for was the lack of acceptance for differentiating opinions. Seems ironic that the political party that preaches about love and inclusivity took social media platforms by storm, saying that if you didn’t vote for their candidate, they had no respect for you and you were “racist,” “sexist,” “intolerant,” “homophobic,” and any other negative adjective, all while providing no reasoning behind these dramatic claims. Last time I checked, we vote for a president based on who is best fit to successfully represent the country, protect the American people, and help the economy.
I have always been secure in my political beliefs, but of course I did my research on every person that ran for any position on the election ballot as to avoid the idea that people vote for their party as opposed to the individuals running. Tar Heels on Instagram, however, had a different idea, with every post and every story uploaded including something along the lines of ‘VOTE BLUE.’ Many of these posts from my UNC classmates were followed by additional comments, such as ‘or else,’ but my personal favorite was when someone posted ‘Trump supporters unfollow me,’ so, naturally as a conservative that voted for Trump, I unfollowed her.
Seems hypocritical to preach about accepting those that are different from yourself when you are not opened to tolerating people that have different political views without even hearing why they have those opinions in the first place.
Although I am extremely grateful to attend a well-respected college, it is hard to respect what the college stands for when it tries so hard to include everyone that it ends up isolating those that do not agree in the process. While Carolina aims to make the campus more diverse, diversity of thought should be accepted and encouraged. The point of higher education is to prepare us for the workforce- and I would hope that I am allowed to believe and support what I want to without fear of being looked down upon.
Sarah Kate “SK” Doherty is a Freshman from Cary, NC, studying Chemistry. She entered our $150 prize article contest and won first prize with this article, and has since joined us as a staff writer.