Professor sues SUU after sanctions for refusing to use they/them pronouns for a student

Sep 1, 2022, 4:57 PM | Updated: 5:22 pm
FILE: Southern Utah University. (SUU/Facebook)...
FILE: Southern Utah University. (SUU/Facebook)

CEDAR CITY, Utah — A professor is suing Southern Utah University after being disciplined for refusing to use the preferred pronouns of “they/them” for a non-binary student in his class.

According to the lawsuit, Richard Bugg has been a professor at SUU for 30 years teaching theater.

When a student in his class, who identified as non-binary requested to be referred to by they/them pronouns, Bugg refused but “offered to address that student either by the student’s name or by the traditional singular pronouns of the student’s choice.”

The demand is pursuant to a university policy which interpreted by school officials, “requires professors to address students by whatever personal pronouns the student insists upon, including not only plural pronouns, but also, on demand, a seemingly endless array of newly-invented pronouns such as, e.g., Zie, Sie, Ey, Ve, Tey and E, to name but a few.”

Bugg is now suing, claiming his right to free speech was violated by the university’s requirement for professors to address students by their preferred pronouns.

His stance is listed in the lawsuit:

“I … am opposed to the coercion of speech that is taking place on our campus and on most campuses. Asking people to use plural pronouns to refer to individuals is one thing. Forcing them to do it is another and contrary to our rights of free speech.”

The lawsuit states that “The Professor declined [the student’s] demand to be addressed with plural pronouns but, instead offered to use [the student’s] name or whatever singular pronouns or proper name [the student] preferred in order to accommodate [the student] and make [the student] feel as comfortable as possible without violating the Professor’s own deeply-held beliefs and convictions.”

However, the lawsuit explains that Bugg attempted to not use female pronouns, but did unintentionally use female pronouns to refer to the student on two or three occasions.

Two filed complaints with the Title IX office, the student involved and another student that said they were offended by the exchange and the professor’s refusal.

The first complaint was filed on Sept. 15, 2021 and five days after, an investigation was initiated.

The investigative report was issued on Jan. 6 “the refusal to “address [the student] by their personal pronouns” was in violation of University Policies 5.27 and 5.60 and was “‘discrimination’ and ‘harassment’ based on gender identity.”

Bugg was issued a letter by Kevin Price, the assistant vice president of human resources, with the following disciplinary sanctions:

a. Professor Richard Bugg submit to education about current views and opinions of English language and grammar experts and resources that using Gender-Neutral pronouns when referring to an individual is now considered grammatically correct.

b. This action and decision stand as written warning regarding the use of preferred pronouns. If Professor Bugg continues to refuse to make a good faith effort to use preferred pronouns it will be  considered an additional violation of policy 5.60 and 5.27 and may result in further sanction up to and including termination.

c. If Professor Bugg refuses to make a good faith effort to use pronouns requested by SUU students, and as a result, students refuse to register for sections of classes he teaches, SUU will open additional section of those classes and Professor Bugg’s pay will be reduced to offset the amounts SUU must pay for the additional sections.”

Bugg appealed the sanctions on May 26, but his appeal was denied on June 14.

Following the appeal, the SUU Provost Jon Anderson added a sanction stating Bugg “must review, and edit as necessary, his syllabus language to ensure it aligns with department guidance related to gender pronouns, and submit the syllabus for approval by the department chair two weeks before the start of the fall 2022 semester.”

KSL TV reached out to SUU for comment but had not heard back in time for this publication.

The lawsuit comes just days after outrage over counselors sharing preferred pronouns in a Farmington Jr. High school. 

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

The ground breaking of the High Valley Transit offices....
Carter Williams, KSL.com and Jed Boal, KSL TV

Utah’s newest transit system breaks ground on $26M new home

High Valley Transit broke ground on a new 61,277-square-foot facility that will house the transit organization's administrative and operations offices.
22 hours ago
The new Draper playground....
Shara Park

1.6 million-dollar Draper ‘all-abilities playground,’ damaged before opening

The new 'all-abilities playground' in Draper is delayed again because of some impatient visitors
22 hours ago
A new U of U hopes to expand it's diversity....
Erin Cox

New Latina dean hopes to help the University of Utah in efforts to become Hispanic serving institution

One of Utah’s largest universities has plans to become a Hispanic Serving Institution, the first of its kind here in Utah.
22 hours ago
The stranger holding a handgun in the driveway....
Shelby Lofton

‘He seemed prepared for battle:’ Neighbors terrified after encounter with armed stranger

Federal Heights residents are shaken up after a suspicious encounter with a stranger Friday afternoon.
22 hours ago
FILE photo...
REBECCA BOONE Associated Press

Idaho ordered to pay $2.5M to transgender inmate for legal fees

A federal judge has ordered Idaho and its prison medical care provider to pay more than $2.5 million in legal fees to a transgender inmate who sued after she was denied gender confirmation surgery.
22 hours ago
Emergency lights...
Pat Reavy, KSL.com

Utah teen who stabbed sleeping couple woke up wanting to hurt someone, charges say

A 15-year-old boy accused of entering a Taylorsville home at random and stabbing a couple in their bed told police he woke up early that morning wanting to "hurt someone," according to court records.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Professor sues SUU after sanctions for refusing to use they/them pronouns for a student