America's prestigious Yale University has decided to replace terms such as "freshman" and "upperclassman" with gender-neutral terms like "first year" and "upper-level students".
The new terminology will likely appear in all publications and communications by the start of the next academic year, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun told the Yale Daily News.
Yale College Dean's Office staff members were told about the change in an email last week, according to Director of Strategic Communications for Yale College Paul McKinley.
Chun emphasised that the memo was distributed to notify faculty and staff how the administration now refers to its students, without attempting to dictate to recipients that they use any specific terminology.
"It's really for public, formal correspondence and formal publications...We're not trying to tell people what language to use in their everyday casual conversations," Chun was quoted as saying.
"We're not trying to be language police," he said.
While Chun praised the new terminology as "modern", he acknowledged that the terms such as "freshman" and "upperclassman" are deeply ingrained in everyday language and in Yale's history.
In his email to faculty last Thursday, Chun said he expects that students, staff and faculty will continue to use these terms as they see fit, "without feeling that anyone is out of compliance with an official policy".
Yale began to consider the language change last year amid growing calls for greater gender inclusivity on campus. By the spring, the informal practice of substituting the term "freshman" with "first year" was becoming increasingly widespread.
Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarribar, who led the campus conversation about the change, had said earlier that replacing the term "freshman" is something administrators had been thinking about for some time, adding that several peer institutions had already made the move.
The University of North Carolina struck the word "freshman" from its official documents in 2009, with the University of Emory following suit in 2015.
Dartmouth College, Cornell University and Columbia University also use the term "first year" in most official publications. There are 1,580 first-year students enrolled at Yale.
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