Penn State to replace ‘male-centric’ academic grouping titles, freshman and beyond


(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The Penn State Faculty Senate passed legislation to use inclusive language and non-gendered terms, according to an article released on Penn State’s website.

The specific recommendations include moving away from using “academic grouping titles that stem from a primarily male-centric academic history.” This includes replacing freshman, sophomore, junior, senior with first-year, second-year, third-year and fourth-year. Students beyond fourth-year, are suggested to be referred to as “advanced-standing” students.

Other recommendations include replacing ‘underclassmen’ and ‘upperclassmen’ with ‘lower division’ and ‘upper division,’ and using non-gendered pronouns when referring to students, faculty, staff or guests in course descriptions and degree program descriptions. This includes using they/them/theirs or by referring to one’s title such as student, faculty member, staff member, etc.

The Appendix C agenda states the following.

“Terms such as ‘freshmen’ are decidedly male-specific, while terms such as ‘upperclassmen’ can be interpreted as both sexist and classist.  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 Senate also passed a resolution affirming its support for the report’s recommendations for how the university can “improve the experiences of Black faculty members and diversify the University’s faculty across Penn State,” and an item related to “diversity, equity and inclusion:  a resolution condemning all acts of bias and hatred against Asian, Asian American and Asian Pacific Islander communities.”

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