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Yale Decries Term “Freshman” As Offensive

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“Every year I get a call from Yale asking why I haven’t donated recently. It’s good to have fresh answers every time.”

Maybe she can next demand that students living off-campus no longer refer to the owners of the apartments they rent as “landlords” because the word “lord” has connotations of feudal Europe where there was something less than perfect social equality.

Changing names has never been more in vogue. Protesters have demanded universities rename buildings whose namesakes have fallen out of favor. Last year, Yale ordered students to no longer use the centuries-old term “master” because it could be considered offensive to black students.

Now, at Yale, one academic dean, Camille Lizarríbar, has made it her crusade to eliminate the term “freshman.” She wants the term replaced with “first-year” because the term “freshman” carries connotations of discrimination against women. Although the term “freshman” has been in existence since the 1590’s, Ms. Lizarríbar has decided that the name needs to be changed urgently, before the start of the next academic year.

Zainab Hamid, writing for the Yale Daily News on March 8, quoted Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway, who admitted that abolishing the term “freshman” was not the first issue on his daily to-do list: “I will confess it’s not something I spent a lot of time thinking about…it just wasn’t part of my daily routine [of] thinking about what things need to be taken care of.”

Vicki Beizer, speaking on behalf of the Yale Women’s Center, dismissed the importance of changing the term: “We don’t think the benefit of changing [‘freshman’] to ‘first-year’ is really that substantive.”

One alumnus of the university commented on the Yale Daily New online edition of Hamid’s article: “Every year I get a call from Yale asking why I haven’t donated recently. It’s good to have fresh answers every time.”

The penchant for name-changing has gotten silly. And Ms. Lizarríbar’s words suggest that she might not be done after replacing “freshman” with “first-year”: “If we really are serious about inclusivity and diversity, we need to look at everything.”

Maybe she can next demand that students living off-campus no longer refer to the owners of the apartments they rent as “landlords” because the word “lord” has connotations of feudal Europe where there was something less than perfect social equality.

There are real problems in the world. Let’s concentrate on those instead of agonizing over how every commonplace term, many of which have been widely used for centuries, could be possibly construed as offensive.

Articles authored or co-authored by Staff.

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