Penn State faculty cancels 'male-centric' 'Junior' and 'Senior' labels

The Penn State faculty senate passed "inclusive language" reform since the school grew from a "typically male-centered world."

The resolution urges the university to change all written materials with the "junior/senior" label because it is "parallel to western male father-son naming conventions."

The Pennsylvania State University’s faculty senate passed “inclusive language” reform legislation.

As Penn State News detailed, the Senate Committee on Curricular Affairs passed a resolution for the “Removal of Gendered & Binary Terms from Course and Program Descriptions.”

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

The resolution asserts that “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 supposedly “parallel to western male father-son naming conventions, and much of our written documentation uses he/she pronouns.”

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The resolution recommends that the university make “editorial updates to our course and program descriptions, which appear in the course catalog and bulletin, to remove gendered terms.”

”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 resolution states.

For instance, individuals at the university should “move away from the use of gendered pronouns when referring to students, faculty, staff, and guests in course descriptions and degree program descriptions.”

Such changes would take the form of replacing “he/him/his” and “she/her/hers” with “they/them/theirs” or “non-gendered terms such as student, faculty member, staff member.”

The resolution also suggests departing “from the use of academic grouping titles that stem from a primarily male-centric academic history in course descriptions and degree program descriptions.” For instance, “freshman/sophomore/junior/senior” would be replaced with “first-year,” “second-year,” “third-year,” and “fourth-year.”

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However, the resolution clarified that “concerns have been raised that numbering years beyond the fourth (4th) would perhaps negatively reflect on students who, for various reasons, are taking longer to complete their (typically) four-year programs, and are also referred to as ‘super-seniors.’”

In these cases, the resolution suggests the term “advanced-standing” be used.

“The committee recognizes that there may be places where these terms, especially gender terms, may need to remain intact, for example in the case of courses or degrees that delve into gender studies,” the legislation further stipulated. “In such cases, efforts shall be made to clearly delineate between the ‘academic’ study of these gendered terms, and the newly established nomenclature as it would apply to faculty, staff, students, and guests.”

Students and faculty at universities across the United States have implemented similar changes in the interest of inclusivity.

The University of Virginia student government, for instance, offered a referendum to scrap all gendered pronouns from its constitution in favor of gender-neutral terminology.

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88.75 percent of students at the university approved the change.

Campus Reform reached out to Penn State and the faculty senate for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

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