Many students are confused or annoyed by the University’s new change in lingo when it comes to the term “first-year,” formerly known as “freshman.” This change has students asking many questions on the topic: Why has this change occurred, who it is aimed at, and does this change actually improve a first-year’s experience here .
As a non-binary student, I hope to clarify why students should approach this new terminology with an understanding of how it makes campus much more gender inclusive, and why they should try to implement it.
Gender is more than just identifying as male or female. This belief in a gender binary, that gender can only be one or the other, is completely false. The idea of gender only being able to manifest in two forms is a societal construct and an old belief. In reality, gender identity and even biological sex are more like spectrums. People can fall anywhere on and off of them, identifying as cisgender, agender, transgender, androgynous, non-binary, two-spirit, intersex, and more. With this said, not everyone at the University identifies as cisgender.
In fact, many students here do not, and thus, changes need to be made.
UR has already made fantastic changes that accommodate genderqueer students, from the presence of many gender-neutral bathrooms to gender-inclusive housing for upperclassmen, as well as the ability for students to change their name. The University itself has been gradually taking steps toward a more accepting and understanding campus. Along with the University, many clubs and organizations on campus have also been taking the initiative to accomplish this as students are becoming more vocal about their desire for a completely gender-inclusive experience, which is marvelous. Props to each and every one of you who is willing to stand up for what you believe in and destroy old, discriminatory thought.
Focusing in on “freshman,” the word itself ends with “man,” implying that all first-years are associated to the male gender, when not all of them identify as male. This word can really upset anyone who does not identify in any way as male. With this being said, I identify as genderqueer and personally know many genderqueer people who are a part of this university and are not offended or bothered by the term “freshman,” but it is understandable why the new terminology should be used, and “first-year” should replace “freshman.” Even if only one student feels more comfortable attending the University because of this change, then this would be a success.
There is no doubt in my mind that we can come together as a whole, and specifically as a student body, to achieve this goal of creating a comfortable environment for all of our fellow peers regardless of their gender identity. It will take some time to make this switch to the word “first-year” due to always having used “freshman” before this, but if we correct one another and think about what we are going to say before we speak about or to first-years, we will soon find ourselves not making any mistakes at all. With the new lingo currently implemented, the University is one step closer to being a completely gender-inclusive university — a major accomplishment.