'You're policing language' - University lecturer objects to gender identity policy

The South East Technological University launched a new Gender Identity and Expression policy last week
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

10.19 9 Oct 2023

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'You're policing language' - U...

'You're policing language' - University lecturer objects to gender identity policy

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

10.19 9 Oct 2023

Share this article

A lecturer at South East Technological University has said a new gender identity policy at the institution is tantamount to 'policing language.'

The university, known as SETU, launched its Gender Identity and Expression policy last week.

Colette Colfer, a lecturer in world religions, told Newstalk Breakfast she has 'huge concerns' about the document.


"First of all, I just want to really stress that I support the aims and inclusions of the Gender Identity and Expression policy that was launched last week," she said.

"I think every student and staff member, and indeed visitor, who comes to SETU or any Higher Education Institution should be treated with equal respect.

"I think it's really important that everybody is treated with dignity and equally.

"My objection to the policy is on the grounds that it states that to refuse to use preferred pronouns or names is an example of unlawful discrimination or harassment.

"I've huge concerns about that."

'It's for any student'

According to the policy, examples of "unlawful discrimination or harassment because of a person's gender identity or gender expression include... refusing to address a person by their correct gender pronoun or new preferred name."

Ms Colfer said she has no issue with gender identity and preferred pronouns.

"I have no problem using preferred pronouns myself, I treat all my students with respect and have many students coming into my class who are different religions, because I teach religions," she said.

"I respect that they believe they have a gender identity, it's real for them, it's understand that and so I will use pronouns".

Ms Colfer said the 'unlawful' aspect is what she has a problem with.

"It constitutes unlawful discrimination or harassment for any student - it's not just me," she said.

"So, if a student refuses to use those pronouns or a staff member, and also if they refuse to use them even when the person is absent which is also hugely concerning to me.

"You're ending up policing language."

'Evidence and research'

Ms Colfer said there are wider issues at play.

"Any policies that should be drawn up in third-level higher education institutes they should be rooted in evidence and research," she said.

"This is what universities are about.

"It's not just SETU, there are in total five higher education institutes in Ireland who make the same statement - UCD was the first to make it in 2017."


Ms Colfer said she also takes exception to people being able to self-identify when it comes to sport.

"There are other matters too, in terms of sports," she said.

"People in SETU, it explicitly states that you don't need a gender recognition certificate; that you can self-identify and then according to that play on the sport," she added.

SETU has said a core aim is to "create an environment that embraces equality, diversity, and inclusion in which all members of the university’s community are treated with dignity and respect".

"These values are encompassed in the policy that is underpinned by the key principle of respect for all students and staff.

"In addition to this, SETU also launched its key guidelines and procedures that ensure the policy is implemented and that staff and students can thrive during their time in higher education," it added.

Main image: Split-screen shows Colette Colfer and an SETU campus. Image: @ColetteColfer on X/Facebook/South East Technological University

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Colette Colfer Gender Identity And Expression Policy Gender Identity Policy Newstalk Breakfast SETU South East Technological University

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