Shawnee State Settles With Professor Over Pronouns

We have been following the litigation involving Shawnee State Professor Nicholas Meriwether over his refusal to adopt preferred pronouns when they contradict his religious views. He previously won a major appeal. Now, the university has settled with him for $400,000 in damages and attorney’s fees as well as a pledge not to continue to sanction him over pronoun use.

At the beginning of the school year, Shawnee State emailed all faculty members to order them to refer to students by their “preferred pronoun[s].” Meriwether teaches religion and philosophy and refers to all his students using “sir,” “ma’am,” “mister” or “miss.”  When Meriwether asked university officials for more details, the school confirmed that professors would be disciplined if they “refused to use a pronoun that reflects a student’s self-asserted gender identity” and the school would not recognize any ideological or religious exception.

The policy was stated as mandatory “regardless of the professor’s convictions or views on the subject.” He was further informed that such punishment would be meted out under the school’s anti-discrimination rules “because of . . . gender identity.”

The issue came to a head with an encounter described by the Court:

“In that first class, one of the students Meriwether called on was Doe. According to Meriwether, “no one . . . would have assumed that [Doe] was female” based on Doe’s outward appearances. Id. at 1474. Thus, Meriwether responded to a question from Doe by saying, “Yes, sir.” Id. This was Meriwether’s first time meeting Doe, and the university had not provided Meriwether with any information about Doe’s sex or gender identity. After class, Doe approached Meriwether and “demanded” that Meriwether “refer to [Doe] as a woman” and use “feminine titles and pronouns.” Id. at1475. This was the first time that Meriwether learned that Doe identified as a woman. So Meriwether paused before responding because his sincerely held religious beliefs prevented him from communicating messages about gender identity that he believes are false. He explained that he wasn’t sure if he could comply with Doe’s demands. Doe became hostile—circling around Meriwether at first, and then approaching him in a threatening manner: ‘I guess this means I can call you a cu–.’ Id. Doe promised that Meriwether would be fired if he did not give in to Doe’s demands.”

What is interesting is that after Doe complained, the Dean of Students and his department chair, Jennifer Pauley, came to Meriwether’s office and said that he had to use the chosen pronoun for the student. Meriwether explained that he had a religious objection but suggested a common resolution that he would use the last name of this particular student rather than use a pronoun. However, he would continue to use pronouns for other students.

As I discussed in the column, many faculty members are now abandoning the use of pronouns to avoid such complaints.The university likely spent in excess of a million dollars in the litigation. It created precedent that can now be cited by other faculty to decline to use such pronouns.


162 thoughts on “Shawnee State Settles With Professor Over Pronouns”

  1. Jonathan: It should have been no big deal. If “Doe” prefers to be identified as a “woman” that’s her choice. Where is the harm? Well, it’s a threat to Prof. Meriwether’s religious universe because his beliefs “prevented him from communicating messages about gender identity that he believes are false”. Meriwether is entitled to his religious beliefs but should he be able impose those views on a trans gender student causing harm? The answer is a simple “No”. Just as in medicine the no harm principle would dictate a solution of either abandoning personal pronouns, using last names only–or better yet asking each student, on the first day of class, to indicate gender ID preference. Doe may be a minority of one in Meriwether’s class so what is the problem? It is apparently a big problem for Meriwether who thinks his religion dictates there are only “males” and “females”. In the Garden of Eden there was only Adam and Eve. That’s still good enough for Meriwether. He teaches religion so his interpretation of the Bible means gender identity need not be recognized in his classes. In his classroom gays, lesbians and transgender students will have to remain invisible. If I were LGBTQ why would I even want to take a religion class from Meriwether? Go figure.

    And why have you taken up Meriwether’s cause? Because FIRE, the group that champions the “free speech” rights of conservatives, has given Shawnee University a “Red” rating because the university “has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech”. In this case the right of a religious conservatives to discriminate against LGBTQ students. You often turn to FIRE for the subjects you discuss because they align perfectly with your views. The Meriwether case highlights how the GOP and other right-wing groups have weaponized the “culture wars”. In Texas, Tennessee and other states the GOP is removing books that feature LGBTQ characters as “pornographic”. In DeSantis’ Florida “don’t say gay” is now required in public schools. He apparently still believes being gay or lesbian is a “lifestyle”. There are some on the right who want the Supreme Court to overturn the Loving decision. This could cause a problem for Clarence and Ginni Thomas. It’s a cynical political ploy by the GOP to appeal to conservative voters who oppose race mixing and the concept of gay and gender identity. As Paul Thornton warned in the LA Times this morning: “Far more important is the grave damages these bills do to LGBTQ students in school who benefit from having their identities affirmed by their teachers and institutions”.

    So it has come down to this. Meriwether wants to isolate and stigmatize the LGBTQ community. And you support his cause. The upward arch of progress doesn’t always follow a straight path. There are periods when reactionaries try and sometimes succeed in turning back the clock and cause harm to those adversely affected. But over the long term justice and equality will prevail despite the Meriwether’s of this world. And your efforts to turn back the clock will also fail.

    1. but should he be able impose those views on a trans gender student causing harm?
      The harm is greater to the Professor.

    2. Meriwether does not believe this man is a woman. Why should he be compelled to participate in a verbal game pretending otherwise? He was nonetheless prepared to use the man’s preferred pronouns if he had been allowed to state in the syllabus that his doing so did not signify his agreement. This the university refused. They appear to have wanted more than mere conformity; they demanded affirmation. That is unconstitutional.

    3. Dennis,
      I have never replied to you before. Mostly because your vitriol is off the charts. There are so many things that make no sense in your post. I don’t have time to list them.
      But are you are really comparing a component of the Hippocratic Oath to hurting a student’s feelings? As for Thornton’s column, their identities are to be accepted without recourse,
      They don’t need to be affirmed. And if they are comfortable with their ” lifestyle” why would they need affirmation?

  2. Be of good cheer. The cost of wokeism is becoming very expensive. Be of good cheer. The woke are losing the battle for the minds of the youth. The young have now awakened to the Democrats saying that their reason for losing is not their policies but only the result of their failed strategies. Be of good cheer. The young are saying that they’re not as stupid as the Democrats think they are. The young sit at the front of the battle line and they are making their voices heard.

  3. He/She, They/Them, Ze/Hir (Ze, hir, hir, hirs, hirself), Ze/Zir (Ze, zir, zir, zirs, ze), Spivak (Ey, em, eir, eirs, ey), Ve (Ve, ver, vis, vis, verself), and Xe (Xe, xem, xyr, xyrs, xe). Welcome to the insane asylum of the left. You send your children skipping off merrily to our bastions of woke ideology education. What can you do? Contribute to more GoFundMe accounts for the defense of those who speak out against the woke mob. Short of that vote.

    1. ThinkItThrough,
      What can we do?
      I think we need to get MORE involved with our children’s education and the public education system as a whole. We have seen the backlash from the VA Gov race and election of Glenn Youngkin. Many people who traditionally voted Dem, Asians, Indians, all voted for Youngkin, as they rejected Terry McAuliffe assertion that parents did not have a say in the education of their children.
      We need to reject wokeism as a whole.
      I have read more than a few life long Dems who have said, to paraphrase Bill Maher, I did not leave the Democrat party, they left me, and embraced wokeism.
      If the Democrats and teacher’s unions refuse to listen to the parents, then home school.
      After that, either trade schools, or create high education institutions that are committed to education, and not indoctrination. Committed to free speech, liberty, critical thinking.
      Meritocracy, not mediocrity. As a parent and a taxpayer, demand the former. Reject the latter.

  4. I hear by declare my pronoun to be Galxigeezor! Supreme Alien Being of the Known Universe and All Time (both past, present and future, as I exist in all simultaneously)!

    You now have the honor of my presence among you lower life carbon based beings.

  5. I have my own solution for all this crapola. I SHALL FOLLOW THE SCIENCE! Henceforth, I’ll refer to Democrats as “XX” or “XY.”

    Or in the case of those Democrats already incarcerated, “YY” (we don’t want to neglect their leading constituency).

    And we should apply these appellations to every restroom door in the country. After all, Democrats already dominate the restroom walls.

  6. Coming so soon after the Oberlin decision, they now have to pay about 30 MILLION to the bake shop owners, maybe we will see some reality set in for these insane asylums masquerading as universities.

  7. The wokes running the universities have no skin in the game. The settlement is tax money. They never lose their job, tenure, retirement, for their incompetent leadership.
    Only politics continue to reward the stupid.

  8. I am going to change my pronoun to awesome. Pronouns have lost all meaning, so using an adjective should not be a problem.

    1. My new pronoun is “Mi Lord”
      He is now = Mi Lord
      Him = Mi Lord
      His = Mi Lord’s

      Using anything else is disrespecting my chosen identity.

    1. Olly says:

      “It’s time to end this woke nonsense.”

      No doubt said to suffragettes 110 years ago or words to that effect.

      1. No doubt said to Luddites 200 years ago or words to that effect.

        All change is not good. All change is not bad.
        Just as the sufferegettes, you need to make your case. You haven’t

  9. Must be a truly strange world to see a Trumpist behind every bush, every shadow, every dark place, ever thought. Don’t really know how Mr. Silberman functions from day to day or gets anything useful done. By the way, the stupidity of the administration in this university was really over the top. Would wonder if there is a legal way of saying that they performed outside the scope of their office and were personably liable. I think Whig98 brings up a good point about personal liability and protecting the taxpayers of Ohio from run amuck administrators such as these. Maybe a part of being faculty should be the requirement for personal liability insurance paid by the faculty member

    1. GEB
      Several have pointed out, the solution to this rests with the Alumni with holding donations. Lots of Alumni center their altruism around their university. Deans are evalutated by the fund raising talents. Donations go down because the woke keep driving away donors, the Dean goes away.

      1. Iowan,

        I agree that boycotting is an effective tool against intolerable speech. Shaming, ostracizing and cancelling work too!

        1. So long as these are choices you make for yourself and no force is involved.

          Though you beg the question of what is intolerable speech.

          And if you silence everyone whose speech you deem is intolerable – you will never really know if you are right.

          “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion… Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them…he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”

          ― John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

          1. Nice quote. Here’s one for you:

            Try the side of the bowl, not the water;
            When water falls on water, it makes a sound that all can hear;
            But when it’s sprayed on porcelain, it falls silent to the ear.

            1. Jeffie, that was a dumb response to John’s quote. Are you telling us you are deaf as well as dumb?

  10. I’m waiting for disciplinary action against the student for calling the Professor a cu#t. Seems like micro aggression to me. Still waiting……….

  11. If only his followers were more like Turley, this country would not be so polarized. Turley is someone with whom you can reason in good faith unlike the vast majority of those on this blog. For one, Turley is not fooled by Trump, and for the second, he does not pull any punches about Biden.

  12. I’m going to identify as a trans Native American so I can get into Harvard. How do we know that Liz Warren is really a “woman”?

    Oh, and from now on I prefer to be called Dr. It’s time we moved on from just making demands about pronouns, the next great leap forward is for education identification. I am now Black Dr. Hullbobby.

    1. “How do we know that Liz Warren is really a “woman”?”

      What? You don’t know? 🙂

      Of course, she is a woman. Her gynecologist tells us she has a cervix, vagina and breasts but lacks a penis.

      Of course, she is a woman. She has XX chromosomes.

      Oh no, maybe I am incorrect. Anonymous the Stupid says she is not a woman based on those characteristics.

      How f’d up is the left, as demonstrated by ATS?

    2. My grandchildren want to “identify” as 21 year olds so they can get drunk every night. I want to “identify” as a 65 year old so I can get Medicare. On a more personal and selfish note, I am a pretty good golfer and tired of losing bets to higher handicap golfers. i am now going to “identify” as a 36 handicapper and never have to pay for lunch again at my local club.

      1. Dennis, good idea. In fact, I’ll identify as “pan-generational.” I want to be drunk and retired!

  13. This story has inspired me to enroll in Harvard University’s advanced gender studies program. I hope to earn a Ph.D. and eventually become a Professor of Gender Studies, so that I will be able to advise corporations and governments on gender issues and serve as an expert witness in lawsuits involving gender disputes.

  14. Why are feeling not a driving force for both sides of the issue?
    The professor’s feeling’s carry equal weight as the students.

    1. iowan2 you can’t be serious. IF you are a radical WOKIST then we should let you believe what you wish but the professor’s religious beliefs are protected legally. Doe’s obvious fiction (I wanna be pretend to be a woman who can use my natural biological traits to physically threaten you”) is not enforceable. I can’t declare my identity as an eagle and demand that the school interact with me accordingly. The professor offered up a self-evidently reasonable solution but it was rejected by the school because they prefer to coddle the radical WOKISTs. It’s reasonable to guess that the professor neither wanted to offend or to be forced to embrace a student’s fantasy. Live and let live seems like a workable standard. Delicate snowflakes do not belong in a place where the goal is to learn and practice critical thinking.

  15. Good news, but as an Ohio taxpayer, I think that some sort of discipline should be handed out to the administrators who generated this whole dispute. 400K is a lot of money for SE Ohio

  16. So glad common sense and decency prevailed. Just the thought of a student circling around a professor, calling him names, with the full confidence that he could get the professor fired for calling him ‘sir’ when he obviously was presenting himself to the world as a man is terribly disturbing and reminiscent of the Red Guard in China’s Cultural Revolution. This student has obviously placed himself on the wrong side of history.

  17. Turley admits:

    “Many of us have no objection to using a student’s preferred pronouns.”

    Good for Turley. And he goes on to say:

    “It is possible to allow for the adoption of alternative pronouns and the recognition of different gender identities without seeking to compel others to do so. We need to find a place of common accommodation and respect in our society. Religious people, conservatives and “TERFs” also are part of the diversity that we should seek to protect. In the end, a degree of mutual understanding and tolerance could produce greater integration of all of these groups.”

    Sounds reasonable to me if only we could get Trumpists to be as reasonable as Turley. But as the following comments will bear out, they won’t….

    1. Glad the professor won his case. Not because of religious convictions. Just because this whole “preferred pronoun” Identify as ” stuff is total bull**it.
      I am going to ” identify” as a Billionaire. And If my local bank does not give me a million dollar line of credit, I am going to sue them for discrimination.
      And I better have the Lefties marching on my behalf, or they are hypocrites. And my feelings would really be hurt.

      1. Paul,

        Turley struck the right note:

        “In the end, a degree of mutual understanding and tolerance could produce greater integration of all of these groups,”

        It’s a pity most of Turley’s followers won’t see it that way as I predict. I would bet on it. I would have even given odds!

        1. Jeff, thanks for the gambling reference. I do agree with your repeated quote. But I cannot embrace this continued emphasis on hurting someone’s feelings as a reason for a lawsuit or dismissal from a job. If violence if threatened , like it appears to be on the part of Doe, that is one thing. And racial epitaphs are out also. But I am sorry, failing to address someone with a ” preferred pronoun” does not rise to the level of disparagement. I will say it again, if you need a ” safe space” because you are ” triggered” by a ” microaggression” GROW UP!!

          1. Paul,

            I agree that people are becoming overly dramatic and exaggerating their grievances not unlike “flopping” in sports, faking or overselling an injury. But unfortunately that is how the game is played these days. Be it Trumpists who whine that they are the “forgotten man” at the mercy of elitists or Leftists who claim that such-and-such is a micro-aggression. EVERYONE plays the victim card to their advantage.

            Turley is spot on:

            “In the end, a degree of mutual understanding and tolerance could produce greater integration of all of these groups”

            We all want respect.

            1. Jeff, I agree we all want respect. But respect is EARNED, not just given out. And arguing over the veracity or frequency of ” flopping” ( thanks for the sports analogy), is futile. Needless to say because I have never heard the terms ” Triggered, Microaggression or ” Safe Space” come out of a conservative’s mouth, I think the victimhood card is played way more by one side. I think that I can attribute that to the fact that many on ” your side” want to embrace victimhood. Not just acknowledge it.
              As far as this particular subject matter goes, I am starting to hate a word almost as much as I hate the word ” Equity”. That word is ” Affirming”.
              We all have things that we don’t agree with.
              And we all of a friend or relative that gets a little obnoxious. So in these matters we take the good with the bad. For lack of better terms we tolerate and accept.
              But affirmation is a whole different level. It means ” emotional support or encouragement. I won’t support or encourage my drunk obnoxious cousin.
              This transgender/ pronouns thing is a hot button for me. I will accept that person’s choice of lifestyle. I will not ridicule or shame. I will treat with respect, until that treatment is unwarranted, like I do with anyone else. But I will not affirm.
              And so far the root of what we are dealing with ( pronouns/trans) is at this time according to the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders is Gender Dysphonia. So at least for now it is a mental disease. I don’t have enough time now to go into how abhorrent I think the new trend to have minors take puberty blockers, hormone treatment, or have irreversible surgeries. At 9 years old I couldn’t match a pair of socks, Much less decide that I was a woman living inside of a man’s body.
              THIS IS INSANITY.
              And I may be deluding myself but, I don’t play the victim card. Maybe you can come up with a couple of hypotheses to put forth to make me more self- aware.
              I have more to say but have to get to church. Kind of a big day for us Christians.
              Be well
              Dinner offer holds.

            2. Jeff,
              you are pretty clueless about those who do not share your politics.

              If you want to understand “trumpists” – I would suggest a deep dive into Salena Zito’s reportings.

              Regardless, you stuff the mouths of those who do not share your politics with your own words.

              No one on the right gives a $hit about “micro agressions” – that is YOUR fixation.

              They are concerned with Actual aggression – the use of force.
              They talk about “whining” – yours – and they laugh about it.

              Can you find a right wing Jesse Smollet who Faked being a victim to wrap themselves in victim status ?

              One of the differences between the left and right – is the left actually WANTS to be victims.

              Another difference is the right cares about the rule of law, morality, and has atleast a limited understanding of history,
              they also have a sense of gratitude and respect for what has been actually accomplished.

              We live int he least racist moment in history, in the least racist country in the world – and the left does not grasp that and wants to burn it all down.

              You want to improve what we have – be my guest. But BEFORE you get to burn it all down and start over – you need to prove, you can do better. And that is pretty damn hard. Actually history tells us that for all the problems of the west, no system of politics, governance, culture anyway ever has even come close to doing as well.

              Those you call Trumpist’s have difficulty with you burning that all down on some false promises to do better.

              I am libertarian, not a big fan of police, I was opposed to Joe Biden’s law enforcement bills for over 40 years.
              I can provide you a long list of improvements I would like to see in policing.

              Defunding the police is NOT one of them. Nor is not enforcing the laws we have.

              Regardless, since 2020 we have seen changes made by the left to law enforcement – sometimes by Riot. These has as predicted worked HORRIBLY.
              Which is back to an earlier point – we all want to improve the world – we want to improve policing. Change is easy – actually improvement is very hard. Most change is fails.

              Those Trumpists you rant about – mostly know that. You do not, this administration does not. the left does not.

              Start with the hypocratic oath – “First do no harm”.

              Your purported intentions do not matter – when your actions cause serious harm.

                1. So you think it is moral to make moral accusations without backing them up ?

                  You do not even bother to identify what you think is a “lie”.

                  Why should anyone trust you – about anything ?

            3. Respect is not an entitlement – it is something you must earn.

              If you want it earn it.

              Do something worthy of respect.

                1. Trump: Peace and prosperity
                  Biden: War and a reduced standard of living.

                  Is that simple enough for you?

                2. Excellent – now think about the meaning of your own words.
                  BTW I though you were not religious.
                  Your answer is right out of matthew.

            4. No everyone does not play the victim card.

              I do not expect your respect.
              I do not expect your agreement.

              I require that you act in accordance with the rule of law.
              It is not “playing the victim card” to observe that you are lawless.
              And to inform you that will have bad consequences – one way or the other.

              I require that you do not violate the rights of others.
              An actual right is a liberty of others that causes no one ACTUAL consequential harm, and that imposes no affirmative duty on others.

                1. No.

                  Is that an argument ?

                  If I can not conduct my life such that I respect myself – why would I care what others think.

                  Regardless, I got past living my life for others as a child.

                  How about you – are you capable of looking in the mirror ?
                  Of looking at the world as it really is rather than as someone has told you ?

                  Will you ever tire at giving control of your life over to others who are constantly wrong.

                  Regardless, in the end it is YOUR life, no one else’s.

    2. Only a fool and a deranged person would see Trump in a case of a professor calling an obviously male person sir, being called a c*nt by said student in a threatening manner and then being disciplined by the college administrators for doing so, suing the college, winning in court and Professor Turley writing on the legal ramifications of all of the above.

      Only someone that NEEDS to see his own TDS words in print would write what this fool Jeff has written. Jeff is a walking advertisement for censorship due to his 100 comments on EVERY COLUMN we see here. But of course I will not call for his censorship because 1) I do not believe in censorship and 2) his words only make his arguments a joke to all normal readers of this great site.

      1. Hullbobby,

        Turley says “good speech” is the antidote for “bad speech.”

        You wrote:

        “Only someone that NEEDS to see his own TDS words in print would write what this fool Jeff has written. Jeff is a walking advertisement for censorship due to his 100 comments on EVERY COLUMN we see here.”

        Turley would not consider your reply to me “good speech” now would he?

    3. If only we could get Trumpists to be reasonable?……Yes as long as they agree with our demands we all can be reasonable. Kind like calling someone a Trumpists without their permission.

    4. “Sounds reasonable to me if only we could get Trumpists to be as reasonable as Turley. But as the following comments will bear out, they won’t….”

      It seems that Jeff’s head is screwed on backward. Those that follow Trump or supported his election do so because of what Turley says: “We need to find a place of common accommodation and respect in our society. Religious people, conservatives and “TERFs” also are part of the diversity that we should seek to protect. In the end, a degree of mutual understanding and tolerance could produce greater integration of all of these groups.” That is a reason for many to support Trump. It is also a reason many conservatives come to this site to support Professor Turley, who so happens to be on the left side of the spectrum.

      We see solid support of Turley by conservatives while the progressives and Jeff, in particular, try to tear him down every chance they get.

      You hate the idea of conservative values even though you are ignorant of them.

      You hate anyone who dares disagree with you.

      Most of all, you hate anyone who calls you out, forcing you to provide facts you don’t have.

      Now, you will argue about the word hate. You will say you don’t hate. That shows how far a brain can deteriorate. For you, hatred is visceral and almost a necessity to keep you alive.

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