Administration opts to use gender-neutral pronoun in paperwork
THE SANTA CLARA
May 21 , 2015
Nearly half a millennium after the word was first introduced into the English language, Santa Clara is joining universities across the country in the movement to cease the use of the term “freshman.”
The title is being switched out in favor of the more gender-neutral term, “first year.” However, Santa Clara will continue to refer to second, third and fourth year students as sophomores, juniors and seniors respectively, since they do not carry any gender markers.
Similar to many other college campuses, women’s rights activists champion this change to the term “first year” and see it has big step forward.
“The transition is a positive indication of the progress that the feminist movement has garnered in the last few years at [Santa Clara],” said senior Tabitha Petrini, a member of Feminists for Justice, a Santa Clara female empowerment organization. “The transition itself from the masculine ‘freshman’ to ‘first year’ means that we will be no longer making women and femininity seem less important than masculinity. ‘First year’ takes women from being implied to being included, which is a necessary change.”
The Undergraduate Studies Council chaired by Phyllis Brown, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies, officially decided upon this new change in April.
“The Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program presented extensive evidence about practices at other schools and research that documents the negative effects language can have on self-perception and performance,” Brown said.
This idea has gained traction over the past few years, and by the time the proposal was brought forward to the council, many were in support.
“Laura Ellingson, the director of the Women’s and Gender Studies department, has been advocating for this for 14 years,” Petrini said.
The implementation of this change mostly involves “university publications and communication with prospective and current students” and can already be seen to have taken effect, Brown said. Many emails students receive have already omitted the word “freshman” and included “first year” instead, according to Brown.
The biggest change will be on the university website, Brown said, which is receiving a new update that will launch this coming fall.
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