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Ohio University to Pay $400K to Professor Who Rejected Trans Student’s Pronouns

Ohio University to Pay $400K to Professor Who Rejected Trans Student’s Pronouns

Shawnee State University
Tstrickland/Wiki Commons

Shawnee University called the settlement an "economic decision."

Shawnee State University, a public college in southern Ohio, has agreed to pay a $400,000 settlement to a professor over disciplinary action related to his refusal to use a transgender student's pronouns.

Philosophy professor Nicholas Meriwether initially sued the school back in 2018, following disciplinary action triggered by his refusal to adhere to the school's policy of using pronouns commensurate with a student's gender identity. Meriwether resisted, citing his beliefs as a Christian. He offered the compromise of using "any name the student requested instead of titles and pronouns," according to a statement issued by his attorney. However, the school opened a Title IX investigation over his treatment of the student, leading Meriwether to file a suit claiming his First Amendment rights were being violated.

The suit was initially dismissed in 2018 when a federal court decided it had lack of standing, however last year a three-judge appellate panel revived the suit and passed it down to a lower court. Ultimately, the school opted to settle the case, calling it an "economic decision."

"Though we have decided to settle, we adamantly deny that anyone at Shawnee State deprived Dr. Meriwether of his free speech rights or his rights to freely exercise his religion," said the school in a statement. "In this case, Shawnee State followed its policy and federal law that protects students or any individual from bigotry and discrimination. We continue to stand behind a student's right to a discrimination-free learning environment as well as the rights of faculty, visitors, students, and employees to freely express their ideas and beliefs."

Not only will Meriwether be granted the settlement funds, but according to his attorney, he will also no longer be required to use a student's preferred pronouns. "As part of the settlement, the university has agreed that Meriwether has the right to choose when to use, or avoid using, titles or pronouns when referring to or addressing students," his attorney's release stated. "Significantly, the university agreed Meriwether will never be mandated to use pronouns, including if a student requests pronouns that conflict with his or her biological sex."

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