Penn State To Stop Using ‘Freshman,’ ‘Sophomore’ Terms And Others Due To ‘Male-Centric Academic History’

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) Penn State University is making sure its campus becomes more inclusive. The Faculty Senate has approved a proposition that would remove gendered and binary terms from their course and program descriptions, according to the university’s student-operated newspaper The Daily Collegian.

A spokesperson for Penn State’s Faculty Senate office tells the newspaper, proposition AD84 Preferred Name and Gender Identity Policy was approved on April 27.

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The proposition recommends changing the terms “freshman,” “sophomore,” “junior” and “senior” to first-year, second-year, third-year, fourth-year, and beyond. It also calls for replacing the terms “underclassmen” and “upperclassmen” with “lower division” and “upper division.”

According to the proposition, terms like “freshman” and “upperclassmen” carry a strong, male-centric, binary character to them and can be interpreted as both sexist and classist. They go on to say terms like “junior” and “senior” are parallel to western male father-son naming conventions.

The proposition states the university has “grown out of a typically male-centered world.”

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They suggest students beyond the fourth year, usually referred to as “super-seniors,” could instead be referred to as “advanced-standing” students since the term “super-senior” often carries a slightly negative connotation.

The recommendation also includes moving away from the use of gendered pronouns when referring to students, faculty, staff, and guests in all written materials, including recruiting materials, admissions materials, scholarship information, housing materials, other outward-facing documents, internal documents, and websites.

The recommendation is to replace he/him/his and she/her/hers with they/them/theirs or use non-gendered terms such as student, faculty member, staff member, etc.

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No word on when the changes will be made.

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