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Penn State to Stop Using ‘Male-Centric’ Terms Such as Freshman


Penn State faculty approved a proposal that recommends changing several common college terms to their gender-neutral equivalent. The faculty explains that this is an attempt to move towards a more inclusive institution, by getting rid of “male-centered” language.

According to Penn State student paper The Daily Collegian, a spokesperson said that these changes will be implemented after the office of the president reviews the proposition. This review does not have a set date.

“The University, as with most all academic institutions world-wide, has grown out of a typically male-centered world,” Proposition AD84, entitled Preferred Name and Gender Identity Policy, explains in its introduction.

University officials have clarified that the change in terminology will be adopted in the university’s course catalogue, which the faculty senate can amend, but may not necessarily be used to amend the language that Penn State uses as a whole, according to 6abc.

Encouraging Gender-Neutral Language

The proposition recommends changing several terms such as freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior to first-year, second-year, third-year, and fourth-year. According to the proposition, the terms junior and senior are a reflection of “western male father-son naming conventions.”

In addition, other terms that carry a strong “binary character that can be interpreted as both sexist and classist” will be changed. This switches out underclassmen and upperclassmen with the words lower division and upper division.

Finally, students that are traditionally labeled as super-seniors or those who have gone beyond their fourth year may be referred to as advanced-standing due to the original term’s negative connotations.

Further Recommendations

Beyond the change in terms, the proposition encourages the removal of gendered pronouns in all written materials. They recommend that all he/him/hers and she/her/hers be replaced with they/them/theirs, or to instead use non-gendered terms such as student, faculty member, and staff.

This announcement has been met with plenty of negative reactions from netizens, who are unsure about the impact of this policy.

Despite the outcry, Campus Reform indicates that an overwhelming majority of Penn State students welcome the change, with over 88.75 percent approving the proposition.

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