No More 'Freshmen' or 'Sophomores' at Penn State

Gendered terms will be dropped from course descriptions
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2021 4:10 AM CDT
Updated May 23, 2021 9:56 AM CDT
No More 'Freshmen' or 'Sophomores' at Penn State
"We suggest that the University consider changes to all written materials," the committee said.   (Wikipedia/David Royal Hanson)

Freshmen, underclassmen, and upperclassmen are going to be a thing of the past at Penn State, at least in course descriptions. The Faculty Senate has approved a proposition to remove gendered and binary terms from course and program descriptions as part of a push to use more inclusive language, the Daily Collegian reports. Freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior will be replaced with first-year, second-year, third-year, and fourth-year, while underclassmen and upperclassmen will be replaced with lower division and upper division. The recommendations also include using non-gendered terms like student, faculty member, and staff member, along with replacing gendered pronouns with they/them/their.

The recommendations from Penn State's Senate Committee on Curricular Affairs also included changing the language used for people who take longer than four years to complete their degree, CBS reports. They will be called "advanced-standing" students to avoid any negative connotations. It's not clear when the changes will be implemented. Merriam-Webster notes that "freshman" and "sophomore" have a centuries-long history at English universities as "insulting words for newbies," with "sophomore" derived from the Greek words for "wisdom" and "foolish." English universities have long used first-year, etc. instead, but use of the terms has persisted in the US. (More university stories.)

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