On Nov. 8, NYU Psychology Professor Edgar Coons was reported to NYU’s Bias Response Line, and subsequently the College of Arts and Science, for allegations of continuous instances of transphobia in his lectures. The Steinhardt junior that reported him claimed that during lectures, Coons used incorrect pronouns when referring to transgender students and taught outdated information on the psychological studies connected to the issue. Although Coons has denied the allegations in an interview with WSN, several other students voiced similar accusations and concerns stretching over a number of years. Even so, NYU has not really done anything towards alleviating the issue or acknowledging the accusations made against the professor. The teachings and attitudes of the professors at NYU should reflect the progressive reputation of the university and its focus on inclusivity and diversity. NYU needs to assure that this vision is cohesive throughout by making sure that all students and professors are on the same page in terms of what behavior is and is not acceptable. Coons’ behavior is not acceptable, and NYU needs to prevent future instances.
The nature of Coons’ offensives is astounding, above all, because it appears that he made the purposeful decision not to listen to continued complaints from students. According to several NYU students, bigoted teachings and misused pronouns are a recurring issue in his lectures. Coons allegedly used the term “abnormalities” when referencing transgender individuals on multiple occasions. The implication of Coons’ word choice spans far beyond an innocent mistake.The choice to not listen to students when they pointed out the problems with the use of this word is even more concerning. The mental well-being of these students is at stake and with each offense, students feel less comfortable in the classroom and in the NYU community as a whole. As poignantly noted by the junior who first brought Coons’ actions to the attention of the Office of Equal Opportunity, these instances transcend innocence and instead solidify an intense ignorance that plagues the mental health of NYU’s transgender students and other community members.
For the sake of making its students feel comfortable and respected in an educational environment, NYU needs to address this issue head on. The fact that this has been going on for years, with no interference by the administration, is troubling and concerning. NYU’s steps in dealing with this issue should include meeting with Coons to suggest a change in his curriculum and notify him that he needs to be more sensitive with his comments. In addition, it would also benefit the community as a whole if all faculty receive a notification reminding everyone to be conscious and respectful to their students, especially, as it should go without saying, when the issue is brought to their attention.
The fact that this issue is happening at a socially-aware university like NYU is appalling. Professors, specifically those lecturing on sensitive matters, should be more respectful with what they say and acknowledge and apologize when they need to.
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