Proposition AD84 — Preferred Name and Gender Identity Policy — recommends moving away from terms like "freshman" and "upperclassman" in favor of other designations, such as "first-year" or "upper division"

By Katie Campione
May 19, 2021 06:49 PM
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Penn State
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Pennsylvania State University will be removing gendered and binary terms from its course and program descriptions.

The university's Faculty Senate approved a measure last month that recommends moving away from terms like "freshman" and "upperclassman" in favor of other designations, such as "first-year" or "upper division.

"It is time to close the loop and ensure that all people are not only able to choose their name & gender identity within our systems, but that these documents and systems are also structured to be inclusive from the start," the University Faculty Senate website reads.

Proposition AD84 — Preferred Name and Gender Identity Policy — also recommends replacing he/him/his and she/her/hers pronouns with they/them/theirs or use non-gendered terms such as student, faculty member, or staff member.

Additionally, the measure suggests avoiding negative connotations associated with students who take longer to complete their degree programs.

"Undergraduate years, or Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate programs, that run beyond the typical timeframe, resulting in the nickname 'super-senior' would be replaced with fifth-year, and beyond, as needed," the proposition states.

The reason for such changes is to move beyond the typical "sexist and classist" terms that are commonly used in curriculum. Terms such as "junior" and "senior" hold a connection to "western male father-son naming conventions," according to the proposition.

The measure suggests changes to all written materials, including recruiting materials, admissions materials, scholarship information, housing materials, other outward-facing documents, internal documents, and websites.  

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However, a university spokesperson told PEOPLE that the Faculty Senate's decision only pertains to course and program descriptions.

"These changes have occurred at many universities across the nation," the spokesperson wrote in an email. "We understand and respect that there are different viewpoints on these matters."

It's not clear at this time when these changes will go into effect.