The University of Cincinnati has found itself at the center of a heated debate after formally reprimanding gender studies professor Melanie Nipper for her handling of a student’s use of the term “biological woman” in an essay.
The Words Were Used in an Offensive Way
The controversy began when Nipper, an adjunct professor of sexuality studies, took issue with her student Olivia’s choice of words in her essay on the participation of transgender women in sports.
“Biological Woman” Is Banned
Nipper informed Olivia that the term “biological woman” was exclusionary and not permitted in the course, as it reinforced heteronormativity.
The Professor Told Her to Revise the Essay
She requested that Olivia revise her topic to focus on women’s rights more broadly.
This Isn’t the First Time
Similar incidents occurred in Nipper’s class when students used “outdated terminology” in projects.
The Professor Had Given Zero for an Assignment
Nipper said she has never failed a student in the course for using “outdated terminology” but does award “a zero for an assignment.”
Stifling Her Academic Freedom
Feeling that her academic freedom was being stifled, Olivia took to TikTok to express her frustration with the incident.
The Video Went Viral
Her video quickly went viral, garnering over a million views and attracting national media attention.
The University Took Action
In response to the situation, the University of Cincinnati reprimanded Nipper, ordering her to complete training on free speech and submit her syllabi for the upcoming academic year to her department head.
It Was Added to Her Permanent Record
A formal letter was placed in her permanent records, and she was reminded that any future policy violations could lead to further disciplinary actions, including termination.
The Professor Defended Her Actions
Nipper defended her actions, explaining that her intention was to create a safe learning environment and teach introductory Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) theory from an intersectional, fourth-wave, and transnational feminist perspective.
The Words Were Transphobic
She believed that the student’s chosen topic unfairly targeted Trans women as a source of oppression for cisgender women in sports.
Her Class Needed to Be a Safe Space With Inclusive Language
Nipper argued that educating Olivia about inclusive language was necessary to foster a safe environment for all students in the course.
She Judges What Statements May Cause Harm
She views statements she deems transphobic or racist as perpetuating such harm.
The Professor Crossed the Line?
However, the public argued that Nipper’s approach may have crossed the line by restricting free speech.
Concerns Over Free Speech
They contend that the university’s reprimand raises concerns about the suppression of diverse opinions and intellectual exploration within the academic setting.
Is Natural Science Transphobic?
Several social media users shared their thoughts on the incident.
One Twitter user wrote, “Because she feels that natural science is transphobic?”
The Professor Was Wrong?
Another Twitter user commented, “After reading the article several times, I would have to side with the student. I’m not sure I understand the professor’s reasoning. But the right is just as guilty as the left regarding the idea of forced beliefs.”
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