Testing policies must reflect campus conversation on gender

Ethan Elkins

Most students consider sitting boy-girl, boy-girl a practice of the past. This is not the case for students in Brian Lendecky’s managerial accounting course, who are instructed to position themselves in alternating genders when taking a test. Lendecky’s restrictive policy is in direct contradiction to UT’s policy on gender discrimination. Forcing students to identify with a binary is inappropriate and can be hostile for members of the LGBT community in an academic environment. 

“I’m uncomfortable that my professor is forcing us to identify ourselves and making assumptions based on what he perceives to be our gender,” said a student in Lendecky’s accounting course who wishes to remain anonymous. 

When the student approached Lendecky, he explained his policy was outlined to prevent cheating. He said students of the same gender are more likely to be friends and thus are more likely to cheat. However, this does not reflect the values of the UT population which fosters diverse relationships. 

Calling for a gender binary undermines the viability of identifications beyond or in between male and female. The conversation on gender has moved passed a binary in terms of non-cisgendered rights visibility, so it is inherently backwards to only recognize self-identified men and women. 

“The policy rests on a lot of uncomfortable assumptions,” said Jesi Egan, a women’s literature and former queer rhetoric professor. 

Egan explained it puts people in an awkward position that forces them to gender or out themselves in an uncomfortable way. 

UT’s gender demographic information does not account for non-cisgendered students because it is a reflection of legal gender, which is assigned at birth. Students who do not identify as male or female are immediately at a loss. Because the transgender individuals have to go through a rigorous process to legally change their gender, many remain classified as their birth gender. If the professor is using class roster data to assign spots, some students may appear out of place if they are passing as their preferred gender rather than their birth gender. 

The policy could be uncomfortable for the faculty who have to enforce it, and it inherently opens up a realm of uneasy gender policing. Whose role is it to tell students they must embrace their legal gender? 

The conversation surrounding gender identification is still relatively new. 

“With older generations, there is a lag time in understanding the type of vocabulary we are currently using to describe gender,” Egan said. 

Because Lendecky did not respond when I reached out to him, I can not be certain what his intentions are or if the issue has even been brought to his attention. 

Obviously, there are other ways to prevent cheating, such as booking a larger room, using different test forms or asking open-ended questions. These methods would be more effective than enforcing a non-inclusive gender policy.

UT’s student body is not silent about gender. The student government recently passed legislation calling for the nomenclature to change to “gender-inclusive restrooms” rather than “gender neutral,” which has inspired the development of a locater app by the Gender and Sexuality Center. As the gender standards continue to change on campus, professors must reflect the policies of their classrooms to reflect an inclusive learning environment.