Student Writes ‘Man’ in Essay, Gets B-Minus and In-Class Scolding

Professor argued that gender-neutrality “pre-baked” in founding documents.

A professor at the University of Florida deducted points off a student’s essay over his use of “man” instead of “humankind.” If this sounds familiar, that’s because we reported on a similar instance at Northern Arizona University in March where an English professor penalized a student’s essay for writing “mankind,” stating she requires the gender-neutral term, “humanity.”

In the latest instance at UF, history major Martin Poirier received his corrected essay from his “History of Water” professor, Jack E. Davis, and noticed the word “man” circled and a point deducted, according to The Daily Nervwhich published a photo of the essay:

Written next to the correction is “W.M. #20,” which points to Professor Davis’s Writing Mechanics style book. Rule #20 states that “the correct usage of language” always includes using “humankind” rather than “mankind.” No reason is given for the rule. Because he broke the rule and made other grammatical errors, Davis gave Poirier a B-minus.

To add insult to injury, Davis also sent out an e-mail to the entire class prior to returning their essays and included Poirier’s writing, albeit anonymously, for the entire class to “read and scrutinize” for the next day’s class. Davis calls this putting students in the “hot seat.”

Poirier outed himself as the writer during the class critique in order to confront the professor about injecting politics into his grading system and his insistence on using gender-neutral language.

“My paper was selected for the hot seat and I felt I had to argue with [Davis] for that specific use of ‘man.’ I said his reasoning was politically motivated and he responded by saying all official grammar is politically motivated,” Poirier said.

The student said Davis went on a rant about “how everything is political” and even suggested that gender-neutral pronouns were “pre-baked into the original intent of the independent American nation’s values and founding documents.”

Those are documents the professor has apparently never bothered to read as the very first sentence in the Declaration of Independence breaks his rules stating, “the opinions of mankind,” while sentence number two states, “that all men are created equal.” Sentence three: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” Ouch, that’s really gender specific, though understood as "all of us" by any level-headed hu-man, wo-man, or whatever, man.