Preferred pronouns court case: Was Professor right to be awarded $400k?

Alliance Defending Freedom

Fact Box

  • On April 19, 2022, Shawnee State University in Ohio agreed to pay professor Nicholas Meriweather $400,000 after penalizing him for not using a transgender student’s preferred pronouns in 2018. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Merriweather’s attorney’s, reported the settlement was decided in his favor by the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals on March 26, 2021. 
  • Shawnee State University responded to the ruling noting they made “an economic decision to settle the Meriweather case [however] we continue to stand behind a student’s right to a discrimination-free learning environment as well as the rights of faculty, visitors, students and employees to freely express their ideas and beliefs.” 
  • In 2018, Merriweather initially filed a lawsuit against the university for issuing a written warning for not addressing the student’s pronouns, asserting his constitutional rights were violated by feeling “forced [...] to violate his sincerely held Christian beliefs.”
  • A February 2022 Gallup reported LGBTQ identification in the US has ticked up to 7.1% from 5.6% in 2021, with nearly 21% of Gen Z identifying as LGBTQ. Bisexuality was the most common (57%) sexual identity claimed, while 10% identified as transgender.

Andrew (No)

Shawnee State University's decision to settle with Professor Meriwether to the tune of 400k is a disturbing example of bigotry at the institutional level. Trans women are women; it really is as simple as that. This professor's refusal to use the student's preferred pronouns is the same as denying her essential humanity. It is disrespectful, hurtful, and arguably dehumanizing behavior. Only an individual can truly define one's own identity, and it is wrong for a professor to attempt to define a student's. Shawnee State was right to discipline him in the first place.

What is perhaps more unsettling is the university's decision to change course and settle out of court rather than champion the rights of one of its students. Punishing this faculty member could have been an opportunity for the university to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights and make a difference in the lives of these young people, something all universities strive to do. Instead, the university has shown it would rather protect faculty with dated and bigoted ideas about trans people to settle out of court in an 'economic decision,' perhaps costing them future students and faculty talent.

This decision shows that Shawnee state university is behind the times and out of touch. It is common practice in university classrooms for students and faculty to introduce themselves and their preferred pronouns on day one with the understanding that everyone will respect them and their identity. Instead of leading the current edge of thinking, as many universities aspire to do, Shawnee State University has made space for other universities and other publicly funded entities to discriminate against members of our society.

Curtice (Yes)

The college classroom should be a place for free and open discussion, not the coercion of someone's speech, especially the professor's. Unfortunately, this is not the case in most colleges and universities today, as free speech is squashed under the demand for adherence to radical ideology, such as the belief that men can be women and must be called by pronouns that do not objectively apply. Today, college campuses are a place to indoctrinate students on exclusively left-wing ideologies, sadly producing an environment where intolerance thrives.

Dr. Nicholas Meriwether, a professor at Shawnee State University, committed the sin of refusing to refer to a biologically male student as a female. He chose not to bend to anti-reality trans ideology and surrender to the student's 'belligerent' and 'threatening' demands to be referred to with feminine titles (miss/her), per the court documents

Nonetheless, the school reportedly punished Meriwether for not addressing the student with his preferred female gender pronouns. The school claimed it was the professor's job to allow his speech to be compelled, violating his rights to freedom of speech and conscience. Professor Meriwether subsequently and rightfully sued the school. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals correctly ruled his rights were violated, awarding him $400,000 in damages and legal fees. 

Colleges and universities have, for the most part, lost sight of their purpose, which is not to force students and faculty to conform to narrow and rigid, not to mention anti-scientific, ideologies. Contrary to what many college administrations and faculties desire, a college campus is not a place where one's first amendment rights vanish. On the contrary, it should be a place where those rights flourish. This ruling is a small but perhaps important toward regaining some sanity in higher education.

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