Penn State Faculty: Ban ‘Male-Centric,’ ‘Western’ Terms Such as ‘Senior’

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The faculty senate at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) has voted to ban “male-centric” terms like “freshman” and “senior,” and replace them with “1st-year” and “4th-year,” in order to be more “inclusive.”

The faculty claims that Penn State “has grown out of a typically male-centered world,” and “as such, many terms in our lexicon carry a strong, male-centric, binary character to them.”

Therefore, in order to be more “inclusive,” the senate passed legislation that would remove sex from language and pronouns when referring to students, faculty, staff, guests, and degree program descriptions, according to a report by Penn State News.

“Terms such as ‘freshmen’ are decidedly male-specific, while terms such as ‘upperclassmen’ can be interpreted as both sexist and classist,” read the legislation, titled, “Removal of Gendered & Binary Terms from Course and Program Descriptions.”

“Terms such as ‘junior’ and ‘senior’ are parallel to western male father-son naming conventions, and much of our written documentation uses he/she pronouns,” the legislation added.

Therefore, the faculty senate recommends replacing “freshman” with “1st-year,” replacing “sophomore” with “2nd-year,” replacing “junior” with “3rd-year,” and replacing “senior” with “4th-year.”

The faculty also suggests replacing “underclassmen” with “lower division,” and replacing “upperclassmen” with “upper division.”

As for students who “are taking longer to complete their (typically) four-year programs,” the faculty says it will not number years for students who are still in school beyond their fourth year, as that “would perhaps negatively reflect on students.”

“In this case, the term does often carry a slightly negative connotation,” the legislation read.

Moreover, using gender in general has also been deemed too “problematic,” as the faculty recommends replacing “he/him/his and she/her/hers with they/them/theirs.”

“It is time to close the loop and ensure that all people are not only able to choose their name & gender identity within our systems, but that these documents and systems are also structured to be inclusive from the start,” the legislation affirms.

“We suggest that the University consider changes to all written materials, including recruiting materials, admissions materials, scholarship information, housing materials, other outward-facing documents, internal documents, and websites,” the legislation adds.

Penn State is not the only university where gender is under attack.

Last month, students at the University of Virginia voted 89 percent in favor of banning gender pronouns from the school’s constitution, swapping them out for gender-neutral pronouns, such as “they.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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