Ivy League school aims to reduce ‘harm,’ ‘anxiety’ among students — whose names are mispronounced

Ivy League school aims to reduce ‘harm,’ ‘anxiety’ among students — whose names are mispronounced
Columbia University is rolling out a pilot program to help reduce "harm" and "anxiety" among students whose names are mispronounced in the classroom by allowing students to upload recordings of their names on CourseWorks, which professors can access. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Columbia University is rolling out a pilot program to help reduce “harm” and “anxiety” among students whose names are mispronounced in the classroom, the Columbia Spectator reported.

Courtesy of the Office of the University Registrar, students this semester can upload recordings of their names on CourseWorks, which professors can access and learn the proper pronunciation of students’ names, the paper said.

More from the Spectator:

The new program, called NameCoach, is open to students in select trial classes in Arts and Sciences and Engineering programs. Particularly for students of color, insensitive or accidentally offensive remarks by faculty — including the mispronunciation of names — in the classroom have the potential to harm their learning experiences.

The university told the paper in a statement that the program aims “to reduce the anxiety and uncertainty that may occur during the process of introducing yourself or learning new names.”

A Columbia spokesperson told the Spectator that 822 distinct student recordings have been made using the software so far, a number encompassing graduate and undergraduate students.

‘I really want to have my name pronounced the way where I’m from’

Julieta Garcia, a Mexican-American student, told the paper she’s grateful for the NameCoach program.

“I really made a big point starting off in my college career to not shorten my name to Julie or just be satisfied with the pronunciation of Julieta as Julieta,” she explained to the Spectator, contrasting the Spanish pronunciation — “hoo-lee-AY-tah” presumably — with the Anglicized pronunciation. “I really want to have my name pronounced the way where I’m from.”

But Garcia added to the paper that she isn’t sure how many professors have signed on to the program to learn name pronunciations.

“I don’t know how well the professors have actually used it,” she told the Spectator. “I know from what I’ve seen I don’t think that much people [sic] have actually participated in it.”

Reducing microggressions

Core Lecturer Robbie Kubala told the paper only one of his 40 Contemporary Civilization students has utilized NameCoach so far, but he intends to encourage more of his students to use it next semester.

“I see it as a nice attempt to improve the ability of instructors to pronounce their names correctly,” Kubala added to the Spectator. “I see it as a nice optional tool to maybe improve some aspect of classroom life.”

More from the paper:

As part of a movement to reduce microaggressions in the classroom, NameCoach has been implemented by several of Columbia’s peers, including Stanford University, for several years. According to the Stanford’s website, 300 students had used the program within the first two weeks of its release.

This writer’s perspective

Psst. Columbia students. After you graduate and head out into the workplace, the chances are slim to none that your bosses or co-workers will employ something like NameCoach in an effort to reduce your “anxiety” or not “harm” your experiences by not mispronouncing your names. But enjoy the coddling while you can.

(H/T: The College Fix)