Chrissy Hart

Amid growing calls for greater gender inclusivity on campus, Yale College administrators are moving to replace the term “freshman” with the gender-neutral term “first-year.”

Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar, who is leading the conversation about the potential change, told the News that while administrators are committed to the shift, there is no fixed timeline or specific plan for its implementation. However, Lizarríbar said she hopes that the language change will be implemented “before the next academic year.”

“I think there comes a time when you want to make sure that the way you’re calling things reflects the values that you have,” Lizarríbar said. “If we really are serious about inclusivity and diversity, we need to look at everything. It’s not written in stone that it has to be ‘freshman.’ … We do have some agency in what we call things.”

Lizarríbar said replacing the term “freshman” is something administrators have been thinking about for some time, adding that several peer institutions, such as Dartmouth, Cornell and Amherst have already made the move.

Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said concerns over the term “freshman” are not new. For as long as he can remember, Holloway said, parents and students have occasionally expressed frustrations about the term being gender-specific. According to Holloway, the conversation over replacing the term has picked up steam recently due to Lizarríbar, who recently celebrated her one-year anniversary in the deanship.

“I will confess it’s not something I spent a lot of time thinking about, recognizing yes, it’s an antiquated term, but it just wasn’t part of my daily routine [of] thinking about what things need to be taken care of,” Holloway said. “But Dean Lizarríbar, who oversees freshman or first-year orientation … basically said ‘it’s time,’ and I have no problem with that.”

Students interviewed expressed mixed reactions to the potential change. Some said they saw the change as a necessary step toward greater gender inclusivity on campus, while others argued that the word “freshman” bears little significance to students, and replacing it would not solve problems of gender bias.

Vicki Beizer ’18, the public relations coordinator for the Women’s Center, said that while the center understands the motives behind replacing the term “freshman,” calling it “gendered,” the language change is not a pressing concern.

“There are a lot of fights to be had about representation on this campus, and we don’t think the benefit of changing [‘freshman’] to ‘first-year’ is really that substantive,” Beizer said.

Isaac Amend ’17, a member of Trans@Yale — a community for nonbinary and transgender students — said that while he does not think that the term “freshman” has a negative emotional impact on students, replacing it with “first-year” would be a positive symbolic move.

“The administration should be doing everything it can do to make sure that every student feels included in regular identifiers that people use [among] the undergraduate student body,” Amend said. “So, while I’m not emotionally impacted by the term ‘freshman,’ I would more than welcome the change to ‘first-year.’”

Amend, a staff columnist for the News, added that the change is particularly important under the current federal administration, which he called toxic to transgender students in an earlier interview. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump rescinded Obama-era federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity.

Abby Dutton ’17 said she supports the potential change, adding that students in her high school were encouraged to use the term “first-year” rather than “freshman” because the latter was considered to be gendered terminology.

Dutton, who served as a leader for Yale’s Freshman Outdoor Orientation Trips -program, said changing the term would better include first-year transfer students who attend preorientation programs like FOOT. According to Dutton, the transfer students who attend do not exactly classify as freshmen, although they are beginning their first years at Yale.

“I’d totally embrace ‘first-year’ because we do serve first-year students, not only recent high school graduates who happen to be starting their first of four years,” Dutton said.

And Aadit Vyas ’20 said the language change would be a “fair move,” but cautioned that it would take some time for the term “first-year” to become commonplace among members of the student body.

Yale College first admitted women in 1968.

Hailey Fuchs contributed reporting.

  • branford73

    Newspeak

  • ShadrachSmith

    “fresh meat”?

  • Seattle Sam

    How idiotic. The term “freshman” has been used for at least a century at co-ed and even women’s schools all over the country. It is no more gender-specific than the term “mankind”.

    • Nicole C

      …and there are those who say we shouldn’t use ‘mankind’ but rather ‘humanity’. I recall that sometime during my time at Yale (graduated 2000) they changed the “Freshman Conference” (one of the optional pre-orientation programs) to “Freshperson Conference”. I also remember some dude who came and spoke at my high school (which would have been probably 94-96 some time) referring to women as “fewos” (pronounced fee-woo) in recognition of the fact that the word ‘female’ contains ‘male’ and the word ‘woman/women’ contains ‘man/men’. Do these people realize all of the genuine problems out there in the world???

  • J. Gatsby

    I will livestream the burning of my Yale diploma when freshmen are called first-years.

  • Robert Boni

    “As freshman first we came to Yale, fol de rol de rol rol rol”

  • Seattle Sam

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

    • 100wattlightbulb

      LOLOLO!!!

  • je2016

    Yale needs two new deans (complete with offices, secretaries, and deputy deans):

    (1) Dean for fixing things that are not a problem.

    (2) Dean for worrying about what things are called rather than worrying about why Yale is becoming so second-rate.

    • Ralphiec88

      And to go along with it, demonstrations of ‘solidarity’ and demands for massive infusions of funding for these new deans. Can’t you just hear the organizers? “For too long, Yale has marginalized things that are not a problem. We aim to end the hegemony of stuff that’s actually important and create a safe space for all voices regardless of whether they have something important to say”

      • Larsen E. Pettifogger

        Yes, new funding! Wouldn’t want to tap the endowment that exceeds the GDP of most countries.

  • JK Noff

    How tedious has this University become?

  • Joey

    “First-year” is the term used for graduate students. Making it for freshman too would be confusing.

  • commeunsouffle

    Does this mean that we’ve done away with “co-ed”, a truly offensive term, and have moved on to minutiae? Really, of all the things wrong in this world, this country, this state, this town and this university, this issue doesn’t even make the list. I’m first in line to cut off the penises of the “yes means no” crowd, but this is beyond silly.

  • commeunsouffle

    Can we do away with actually offensive word “co-ed” before we worry about this non-issue?

  • Joseph W MacCarthy

    This was a discussion we had 20 years ago when I was at Yale. In fact, people stopped using the term almost completely, saying “frosh” or “freshlings” instead. I recall at a cappella tap night, the Whiffs sang “Wake, Wake Freshlings Wake,” absurd as that was. Eventually people realized it was stupid and no one was actually excluded from any opportunities at Yale because of the historical legacy of the word. Then “freshman” came back and no one minded. Those who do not know the past….

  • Phil Ostrand

    Thank you Vicki Beizer for having some common sense. We have bigger issues than this.

  • Larsen E. Pettifogger

    So FOOT would become FYOOT? Deal breaker.

  • Nicole C

    Check out tonight’s (April 2nd’s) Simpsons! The first half totally makes fun of the over-the-top political correctness at Yale!

  • Joshua Camuso

    God created “man” both woman and man… we are all hu”man”. Freshmen is as gender neutral term