The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.
The University of Michigan has adopted an updated version of Zoom, the video-conferencing software used for many meetings and virtual classes during the pandemic, to increase accessibility and further goals of diversity, equity and inclusion.
The latest version of Zoom allows people to display their preferred gender pronouns as part of their display name. This update brings Zoom into further alignment with the University’s Information and Technology Services Department’s stated goals to provide an inclusive environment for all people.
“We commit to pursuing deliberate efforts to ensure that our campus is a place where differences are welcomed, and where every individual feels a sense of belonging and inclusion,” the new goals read.
Ravi Pendse, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer at the University, said ITS wants its contracted vendors, such as Zoom, to be as inclusive and accessible as possible.
“We are always pushing for ensuring that the vendors and services are partners in accessibility issues and also issues around diversity and inclusion,” Pendse said. “We wanted Zoom … (to allow) people to use their proper pronouns if they wish to … You can now go into and enable their proper pronoun if they wish to use it.”
Ellen Meader, Assistant Vice Provost for Equity, Inclusion and Academic Affairs, said allowing people to display their preferred pronouns on Zoom will help people feel more comfortable when communicating on the video-conferencing platform.
“That helps folks feel that they can identify themselves the way that they want to be identified,” Meader said. “It will give people an opportunity to express who they are.”
Engineering sophomore Shrey Saghal said adding pronouns to Zoom will make online classes and meetings easier.
“This Zoom change is great for everyone because people can skip the awkward pronoun-correction conversation, making spaces safer particularly for non-cis people,” Sahgal said. “Some professors have asked all students to just stick their gender pronouns in their Zoom nickname, but adding pronouns as an actual part of the app helps make this practice easier.”
The change also improves accessibility by making it easier to use live transcription during meetings and webinars. Prior to the update, a participant had to interrupt a meeting or webinar and ask the meeting host to turn on live transcription. Now anybody on a Zoom can anonymously request live transcription to be turned on for their meeting or webinar without interruption.
Pendse said the update of live transcription is likely to help all people in the U-M community, particularly people with disabilities.
“We have found that (live transcription) has been used over and over again by our students and faculty and others,” Pendse said. “(For) our students who need a little bit of help with hearing, having that automatic transcription was a big help.”
Daily Staff Reporter Justin O’Beirne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.