The Department of Psychology Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee has launched a new Name Pronunciation Project. To support department members’ sense of belonging and community-building, the proposed name pronunciation guides (phonetic spelling and audio recording) are included on staff and faculty member profiles, as well as graduate student profiles, on the department’s website.

“People’s names can be considered a core aspect of their identity. Names often reflect aspects of someone’s social location, including cultural, national, racial/ethnic, religious, and other background factors,” says Assistant Professor Michele Morningstar (Psychology).

The project was proposed by EDI Committee Chair and Canada 150 Research Chair Sari van Anders and was led by fellow EDI Committee member Dr. Morningstar.

“Names that are outside majoritarian social locations—such as those of minoritized department members—are commonly mispronounced. Deciding whether/when/how to correct people requires cognitive energy; moreover, corrections are not always effective, and errors tend to propagate outwards (e.g., as people hear names mispronounced by others, and then use the mispronunciation themselves),” explain Drs. Morningstar and van Anders.

They add that “frequent mispronunciations of one’s name can be, and/or be experienced as, microaggressions (i.e., common or daily slights that can carry discriminatory, prejudicial, and/or negative attitudes towards minoritized people), regardless of people’s intention or good faith. In addition, many department members would like to correctly pronounce others names but may not know how or may not want to ask the individual.”

The Name Pronunciation Project is geared towards reducing the instances of such mispronunciations. The EDI Committee says the majority of faculty and staff department members, and many graduate students, have contributed to this project by sending in their name pronunciations.

Drs. Morningstar and van Anders hope this initiative “will contribute to a welcoming and inclusive environment in the department, by helping us all pronounce each other’s names correctly.”

“This is an excellent initiative from the Department of Psychology that I encourage all of us to adopt,” says Elliot Chapple, Director of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigenization. “Names are, as Dr. Morningstar states, one of the core parts of our identity. Having our name pronounced correctly makes us feel respected and provides a true sense of belonging. Of course, it’s hard to know how to pronounce a name you’ve only seen written, and this offers a simple solution to that problem. Just like adding pronouns to your email signature, this is a simple and effective solution that saves people the awkwardness of having to ask. This is a small act that will have a big impact. I hope this is adopted widely.”

See an example of the new name pronunciation guide on the Psychology website.

Read the original Queen's University Faculty of Arts and Science article.

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