Montana State University Settles With Student Over Pronoun Dispute

Another pronoun case has come to a successful end for a challenger. We previously discussed a settlement with a Shawnee State professor over a pronoun dispute. We also discussed similar cases filed in Ohio, Utah, and other states over “misgendering.” Now Montana State University student Daria Danley has agreed to a settlement with the university after lengthy litigation. However, the position of MSU remains unclear on how it will police pronoun offenders in the future.

Danley is an Alpha Gamma Delta member who was found to have violated her sorority’s pronoun rule and a “no contact” order was issued in September 2021 by the university.  The order prevented her from attending events or even entering a building where a LGBTQ sorority student was present.

Danley sued MSU, its president and director of the Office of Institutional Equity, along with the commissioner of higher education.

While Danley’s counsel claimed victory in the settlement, MSU insisted that it merely

“accepted this settlement as a conciliatory mechanism to best serve the interests of our students. Rather than engaging in protracted litigation and a public debate of this matter, we have taken steps to allow the involved students to return to the privacy of their normal lives and to focus on their education.”

That leaves some doubt as to what is being settled. The university was referring to settling the matter with “the involved students” but not that it was ending its no-contact orders or pronoun sanctions. The uncertainly over that position is curious since, in 2017, MSU had to pay a $120,000 settlement with then-student Erik Powell after he was suspended for criticizing a transgender student to a professor in a private meeting.

MSU elected to litigate this case for a couple years at a cost to both itself and the student. Yet, it is not clear if it is making any changes in its pronoun policies for other students or staff.

Across the country, universities are ramping up misgendering rules for faculty and students. The most recent is Point Park University in Pittsburgh, which notified students that its Office of Equity and Inclusion will enforce rules against misgendering, pronoun misuse and deadnaming for individuals who do not use their classmates’ preferred pronouns. The university sent an email to students that states “any individual who has been informed of another person’s gender identity, pronouns, or chosen name is expected to respect that individual.” Students were informed that using the wrong pronoun was a violation and “action could be taken.”

Many have no objection to using a student’s preferred pronouns. Indeed, many faculty members try to avoid using pronouns altogether in class, rather than look up a student’s designated pronoun. Confirming the right pronouns can be challenging in the middle of a fast-moving class. Students today identify from a growing list of gender identities including, but not limited to, genderfluid, third-gender, amalgagender, demigender, bi-gender, pansgender, and a-gender. Pronouns can include, but are not limited to: 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).

Pronouns are fast fading from common discourse under the threat of pronoun penalties. Cities, too, are enforcing misgendering rules; for example, the New York City Human Rights Law allows for fines if employers, landlords or professionals fail to use a preferred name, pronoun or title.

Yet some people have religious beliefs against following the new order and using such pronouns. As a result, there are serious free-speech and religious-freedom objections to mandatory usage rules.

56 thoughts on “Montana State University Settles With Student Over Pronoun Dispute”

  1. Jonathan: I am really surprised there was so much blowback from my earlier comment about Michael Knowles and his speech at SUNY Buffalo. Some think I “cherrypicked” to make a point. But I only do what you frequently do in your columns. Your sources for news are often from Fox or the NY Post–not very credible sources for factual reporting in my opinion. But you are paid by Murdock to echo his views. I am not paid for what I write about. My source for the Knowles story was a Daily Beast article that was cited on Yahoo News. The Daily Beast article (3/10) included the entire video of Knowles speech at SUNY Buffalo. I watched the entire speech and there was nothing in the Beast article that inaccurately misquoted or distorted Knowles comments.

    So what can we glean from what Knowles had to say? Knowles started by saying the press got it wrong by claiming his speech at CPAC meant he called for the “genocide” or the “mass murder” of transgender people. He doesn’t. But from there he condemned “transgender ideology” and equated it with “transvestites”. That was his first factual mistake and it is clear he doesn’t know the difference. A transvestite refers to a person who acts and dresses in the opposite gender but may not necessarily identify as one. A transgender is a person who identifies as the opposite sex and takes steps to change their physical and legal gender. For someone who claims to be an authority on such issues you would think he would be better informed.

    Knowles then turned to the topic of his speech. He complained about the “illogic” of feminism and said it has “weakened the family”–themes Pat Robertson has harped on for years. Knowles even mentioned Robertson by name. Knowles says feminism has made women feel “miserable”. Knowles knows this because of a survey in 2009 by Wharton. He first says he considers social science and statistics “total bunk” but he cites the Wharton survey because it “backs up my argument”. Knowles said “survey after survey” supports his argument but he cites only the Wharton study. Now if that is not “cherry picking” what is it?

    During the Q & A Knowles made it clear he thinks “feminism” is the root of all evil–horrors like gay marriage, the right to use contraceptives, inter-racial marriage. You name it feminism is the cause. Knowles never mentions that had it not been for feminism there would be no 19th Amendment and Justice Thomas would not have been permitted to marry Ginni Thomas. And Knowles thinks the “liberal” wing of the SC erroneously gave women the right to abortion. Knowles made it clear we should go back to a time when “men acted like men and women like women” because feminism has “destroyed the family” and our traditional Christian culture.

    If Pat Robertson had been watching the speech he would have applauded. At 92 he no longer hosts his 700 Club broadcast. But in Knowles tribute to Robertson maybe the elder evangelical sees in Knowles his heir apparent–someone who could carry on the struggle against the “evils” of feminism. Maybe Knowles was even auditioning for the role. At least judging from the applause at the end of Knowles speech the congregants assembled seemed to think so .Knowles is a preacher disguised as a conservative political commentator. His views are not rooted in logic or science–but biblical scripture. He belongs on the 770 Club not on the stage of SUNY Buffalo!

  2. There is a lie propagating below about Michael Knowles supposedly promoting “genocide.” This is based on a deliberately false headline in The Daily Beast, which changed Knowles’s words. Knowles denounced an ideology, transgenderism, which the headline changed by saying he called to eradicate the “transgender community.” Huge difference in meaning from changing that one word, and the Daily Beast knew it. They changed the headline after enough time for the lie to get picked up by other propagandists. The Daily Beast proved itself to be a bunch of slimy weasels who knew exactly what they were doing in spreading lies.

  3. Democrats are into pronouns, killing babies and pregnant men. The rest of us are into the Constitution, among other things.

  4. My reaction to someone who demands I refer to them in newspeak is to simply join in the fun. For THEM, my preferred pronoun is “Your Lordship”, and I’m not kidding. It’s how I identify. “Dis” me by calling me anything else and you will seriously be in big trouble – I’ll make sure of it.

  5. Jonathan: There is an interesting case out of the State University of NY at Buffalo that kind of shoots holes in your column about Stanford Law. Last Thursday right-wing transphobic commentator Michael Knowles delivered a hate-filled speech on the Buffalo campus. Young Americans for Freedom, a student org devoted to conservative ideas, hosted Knowles. Knowles speech was entitled “How Feminism Destroys Women ( And everything Else)”. Knowles told the audience: “I think women understood the world a lot better before feminism. I think women were obviously much happier before feminism”. Not exactly music to the ears of most of the audience.

    There were protests by students who chanted “Trans lives matter”. That was prompted by Knowles suggestion at the CPAC last week when he suggested “trans genderism must be eradicated from public life entirely”. Activists and journalists denounced Knowles for openly calling for genocide against trans people. But Knowles was allowed to complete his speech and protesters were escorted from the auditorium. The university president even issued a statement upholding Knowles’ 1st Amendment rights.

    So what does this say about your claim that conservative speakers are being shouted down and prevented from speaking? An isolated case, like at Stanford Law, doesn’t establish the rule. Cherry picking isolated cases to try to prove your claim is not exactly what an academic should be doing. Once again, you try to build a mountain out of a molehill. Buffalo proves conservatives, even ones who hate women and transgenders, can be heard on university campuses.

    1. The exception that proves the rule. JFC.

      Maybe if you took a bunch of SUNY Buffalo undergrads and indoctrinated them at Stanford then shipped them back to NY there’d be a different outcome.

      This trans BS is so boring, but I suppose the dims need a shiny object to gather around, so this is what those geniuses came up with, WOW!.

      How many trans kids were injured, 100s, 1,000s?? Boring. Trans people have the same rights you and I do… Just because I like UK/Irish chicks doesn’t mean I get a political movement. Kill it with FIRE. Not them, the BS “movement.”

      Face it, the bougie StanLaw morons are grasping at straws in an effort to assume relevancy. Yawn, half of them will end up at biglaw being pricks and the other at do-gooder NGOs being sullen pricks; sell-outs the vast majority.

    2. In other news, I walked on the streets in New York today and was not mugged. I came home with my life and my wallet intact. Therefore all this talk about crime must be incorrect.

      Also, Knowles “openly called for genocide”???!!!! What the actual ****? Not only are transsexuals not a “gen-“, but how do you achieve genocide without a single “-cide”?

    3. “I think women understood the world a lot better before feminism. I think women were obviously much happier before feminism”. My goodness! How hateful! LOL!

      “Buffalo proves conservatives, even ones who hate women and transgenders, can be heard on university campuses.” I see. So your “cherry-pick” is proof, but Turley’s is not? Lefty logic.

      Here’s the thing. In a country that values free speech, institutions that should be promoting open discourse to further academic freedom and improve students’ minds should be welcoming speakers on all subjects. That is the appropriate standard. Departure from that standard, particularly churlish departure, ought to be called out at each occurence.

    4. “Knowles suggestion at the CPAC last week when he suggested “trans genderism must be eradicated from public life entirely”. Activists and journalists denounced Knowles for openly calling for genocide against trans people.”

      Dennis, there must have been a lot of idiots writing about Knowles’ speech because I see you picked up the lie told as the truth. You can listen to Knowles yourself. He starts around 2-3 minutes, is very entertaining, and seems like a nice chap. In case you or anyone else is too lazy to listen to a couple of minutes where he repeats the words the press lied about and defines what the word ideology means, I will paraphrase what he said. An ideology is not a person or group of persons. Would you say eradicating communism means killing all the communists, or eradicating capitalism would mean killing all the capitalists? No. He once again repeats what he said verbatim, including an explanation that will not be understood by those that turned in their brains to their leftist masters. Listen to 5 minutes of the video and see how foolish those people are that lie and call what he said genocide when he didn’t advocate killing anyone or even abridging the rights of transgender people. He discussed transgenderism, the ideology, just like other ideologies ending in ‘ism’ as capitalism and communism.

    5. How interesting. You pick THE EXCEPTION, and claim everything else is the exception? How transparent of an idealog. For every 1 campus that allows one speaker, there are 20 that are due down. It’s never the left than gets shut down. Just the right.

      The sad part is these leftists are so FRAGILE that they can’t let anyone else have an opinion but theirs. This WILL be the eventual collapse of the left. Their people can’t think for themselves anymore. Their policies aren’t based on anything sustainable.

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