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Hofstra Law Review

Article Title

Name-Calling

Abstract

Jennifer Hoffman identified as a woman. A classmate of mine in law school and a section-mate of mine during our first year, Jennifer wore no make-up, her short brown wavy hair parted to her right side, and an oxford shirt tucked into slacks each day. Jennifer always took her seat in the middle of the classroom in our large first year lectures. While members of my first year section, like many first year law students, shared the fear of being called on in class, many of us shared another fear, as well: the fear that Jennifer would be called on. On more than one occasion, professors leading lectures would call on "Mr. Hoffman" while looking at Jennifer in the middle of the classroom. In so doing, these professors called on Jennifer as they would call on any other student sitting in their classroom, which is to say they used the gendered title with which they assumed she associated and the surname that appeared in her box on the professor's seating chart that represented the seat she occupied.

Since I began teaching law, I have instituted a name-calling policy which provides that since I call on students randomly, before they have the chance to let me know with which gendered title they identify, I call on students by their first names. I tell my students that I do this because "I feel strongly that each individual should be able to choose a gendered title, rather than feel compelled to respond to a gendered title chosen by someone else."

This invited Idea submission explains my name-calling policy and its motivation: an aspiration for gender-neutrality in the law school classroom. Of course, the idea that the law school classroom should be gender-neutral is not universally accepted. For this reason, this Idea argues that law school classrooms should be gender-neutral and that instituting a policy like the Name-calling Policy is an effective step toward the end of gender-neutrality.

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