Penn State Faculty Committee Moves to Remove 'Gendered' Terms (Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Thursday, 13 May 2021 03:04 PM
A Penn State faculty senate committee has proposed removing "gendered" and "binary" terms from program and course descriptions.
The Senate Committee on Curricular Affairs explained its decision and recommendations in an April 27 appendix.
"The University, as with most all academic institutions world-wide, has grown out of a typically male-centered world,” the committee explained in the document, as reported by the Washington Examiner.
"As such, many terms in our lexicon carry a strong, male-centric, binary character to them. 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 faculty senate committee, in saying the changes will make Penn State "inclusive from the start," added that all students will feel more comfortable because they’ll be allowed to choose their name and gender identity.
The implementation of the "Preferred Name and Gender Identity Policy" will require approval by the university Senate.
The committee recommended updates to course and program descriptions, which appear in the course catalog and bulletin, to remove gendered terms.
The proposal would “move away from the use of gendered pronouns” by replacing "he/him/his and she/her/hers with they/them/theirs or use non-gendered terms."
It would also replace "male-centric" terms such as "freshman/sophomore/junior/senior with first-year (1st-year), second-year (2nd-year), third-year (3rd-year), fourth-year (4th-year), and beyond."
"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 document said.
"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."
William Kenyon, a member of the committee, said the proposals were a good "first step" to make the university more inclusive.
"This is hopefully the first step of many to assure our words throughout the university are inclusive and welcoming," Kenyon said.
"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. Under the purview of our committee, we make specific recommendations for editorial updates to our course and program descriptions, which appear in the course catalog and bulletin, to remove gendered terms."
Gender terms have become a hot topic at many of the country’s colleges.
The State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo rescinded its suspension of a student who it barred from the teaching program for posting a video in which he declared ''a man is a man, a woman is a woman.''
Dormitories at Harvard University are undergoing a $1 billion renewal that will include the construction of gender-neutral bathrooms and showers on each floor.