Penn State Committee Nixes the Terms 'Freshmen,' 'Upperclassmen' Because They're Classist and Sexist

(AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Our new era just got a little newer.

Do you remember the excitement of college? Do you recall the energy of your freshman year? As a sophomore, perhaps, you were hitting your stride. As a senior, per chance, you were large and in charge.

Well, that was then and this is now. Perhaps you’re still large and in charge or — like a lot of us — maybe only one of those. Either way, a new generation won’t be stepping on the same ladder rungs your cool Reeboks — or Chuck Taylors or Dr. Martens — once did.

At least, that is, in terms of terms.

Such is the case, as suggested, at Pennsylvania State University, where the faculty senate’s voted to 86 the classification of “freshmen.”

Also nixed: “sophomore,” “junior,” “senior,” “underclassmen,” and “upperclassmen.”

The improvement comes courtesy of a resolution championing “inclusive language.”

As reported by Campus Reform, on April 27th, the Senate Committee on Curricular Affairs passed the “Removal of Gendered & Binary Terms from Course and Program Descriptions” resolution.

Here’s how it begins:

The University, as with most all academic institutions world-wide, has grown out of a typically male-centered world. As such, many terms in our lexicon carry a strong, male-centric, binary character to them.

The motion fries “freshmen” while cooking classism. And sexism? You’re toast:

Terms such as “freshmen” are decidedly male-specific, while terms such as “upperclassmen” can be interpreted as both sexist and classist.

Furthermore, it explains, “junior” and “senior” are “parallel to western male father-son naming conventions, and much of our written documentation uses he/she pronouns.”

The measure suggests Penn State enact “editorial updates to…course and program descriptions, which appear in the course catalog and bulletin, to remove gendered terms.”

It’s a major overhaul:

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.

And not only that, but the school should “move away from the use of gendered pronouns when referring to students, faculty, staff, and guests in course descriptions and degree program descriptions.”

Amid the changes, male and female pronouns would be replaced by “they” variants.

Alternately, the college could employ “non-gendered terms such as student, faculty member, staff member.”

And what of attendance-related titles that “stem from a primarily male-centric academic history”?

The edict suggests “first-year,” “second-year,” etc.

But what if you take — as many do — six or seven years to graduate?

The committee admits such a designation would “perhaps negatively reflect on” such slowpokes.

Hence: “Advanced-standing” is the ticket.

So goes language into a more sterile form.

It’s not surprising, as we’ve been previously informed of English’s need of male-targeted detoxifying.

And to be clear, Penn State isn’t the only college lunging to liberate the oppressed.

As noted by Campus Reform, the University of Virginia student government recently “offered a referendum to scrap all gendered pronouns from its constitution in favor of gender-neutral terminology.”

Personally, I’m in favor of going much farther into fixing our problematic parlance.

“They” gets rid of cisgender distinction, but the pronoun game has been upped a might since that aging inclusive relic.

Last month, I covered the advent of the brand-spanking “noun-self pronoun.”

Such allows one to exist on a creative plane heretofore unavailable to the spoken-of masses.

As reported by The New York Times, boys, girls, and the nonbinary alike may now refer to themselves as “bun/bunself.”

I vote for that term to replace all others in the Penn State literature.

Gone will be the weight-gain-indicating, sexist phrase “freshman 15.” From now on, across the quad, as the semester extends like a loosened belt, classmates will simply notice the presence of larger buns.

It’s just an idea, but so are the Senate’s proposals.

Speaking of — as stated by Penn State News — the group also passed a “resolution affirming its support” for the “More Rivers to Cross: Black Faculty and Academic Racism at Penn State University” report.

Per a member of the Self-Study Committee:

“This is a symbolic action, but it is important to take a stand against racism and stand with our fellow faculty, and then take steps in order to fight against racism and any act of white supremacy.”

Education’s on the move.

-ALEX

 

See more pieces from me:

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