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Penn State to remove binary gender language such as ‘freshman’ from course and program descriptions

In this Oct. 28, 2015 file photo, a Penn State student walks in the rain past Old Main on the Penn State main campus in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

(CNN) — Penn State University’s Faculty Senate has approved a proposition to remove gendered language including “freshmen” and “upperclassmen” from course and program descriptions, the university told CNN.

The Faculty Senate, which has legislative authority on educational matters at the university, voted on April 27 to pass the changes in proposition ‘AD84 — Preferred Name and Gender Identity Policy.’

The rationale for the proposition states that terms like ‘upperclassmen’ can be interpreted as “both sexist and classist.”

“With the implementation of the AD84 — Preferred Name and Gender Identity Policy, 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 proposition states.

Changes will include replacing descriptors such as “upperclassmen” with “upper division” and “freshman” with “first-year.”

Wyatt DuBois, the assistant director of media relations at the university, noted that the changes will apply only to course and program descriptions, which are within the purview of the Faculty Senate, and not the administration or the Board of Trustees.

“These changes have occurred at many universities across the nation. We understand and respect that there are different viewpoints on these matters,” DuBois said.

Gender neutral language refers to people who fall outside the gender binary– that is, people who don’t identify as singularly male or female and may find the pronouns he/him and she/her constructions to be lacking.

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