Houghton University in New York fired two employees in April after they refused to remove their pronouns from their email signature.
Raegan Zelaya and Shua Wilmot, both resident hall directors, told the New York Times that the school said they had violated a new policy when they added their pronouns to the email.
“I think it boils down to: They want to be trans-exclusive and they want to communicate that to potential students and the parents of potential students,” Wilmot said.
The two staffers also added that not only was adding the pronouns a way to be inclusive, but also clear up any ambiguity for email receivers as the two have uncommon names.
The small college of less than 1,000 students describes itself as a “Christ-centered liberal arts and science university, providing an academically challenging educational experience through an orthodox Christian worldview.” The New York Times reports that the school has come under fire for closing a multicultural center in 2021, an environmental sustainability program, and ended its recognition of an on-campus LGBTQ club.
A spokesperson told the newspaper that the firing was not based solely on the pronouns, but that “we’ve required anything extraneous be removed from email signatures.” However, a photo of Zelaya’s termination letter includes the reason for her firing was “as a result of your refusal to remove pronouns in your email signature.”
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, both employees were on one-year contracts to manage the men’s and women’s residence halls. Zelaya already had plans to not return and Wilmot’s contract was not renewed.
On Niche.com, where people can write reviews of colleges and universities, Houghton University has received multiple low scores.
“Administration actively works to discriminate against LGBTQ groups. Accusations of sexual assault are not taken seriously. They consider themselves progressive, and openly brag about being an open, loving, accepting community, but while I was there in 2017 there were multiple instances of students being singled out in a negative way for their race, gender identity, and sexuality.”
And in another review, “People at Houghton, specifically administrators, have no idea what it is to be Christian. They are accepting of no one and grossly prejudice. They turn their backs on people Jesus would’ve helped with open arms. They push their bigotry onto everyone on campus making sure each person agrees, otherwise they’re out,” one person wrote a month ago.
“My pronouns are they/them, so I’m going to not go here since this place does not like its queer students,” another person wrote.