Surbhi Bharadwaj

After beginning to roll out the new terminology in formal correspondence early last spring, University administrators have now begun the process of replacing the terms “freshman” and “upperclassman” with the gender-neutral terms “first year” and “upper-level students” in official campus publications, such as the Undergraduate Regulations and the First-Year Handbook.

The new terminology will likely appear in all publications and communications by the start of the next academic year, according to Yale College Dean Marvin Chun. Yale College Dean’s Office staff members were told about the change in an email last week, according to Director of Strategic Communications for Yale College Paul McKinley. Chun informed Yale College faculty about the change in an email Thursday afternoon.

In an interview with the News, Chun emphasized that the memo was distributed to notify faculty and staff how the administration now refers to its students, without attempting to dictate to recipients that they use any specific terminology.

“It’s really for public, formal correspondence and formal publications … we’re not trying to tell people what language to use in their everyday casual conversations,” Chun said. “We’re not trying to be language police.”

While Chun praised the new terminology as “modern,” he acknowledged that the terms “freshman” and “upperclassman” are deeply ingrained in everyday language and in Yale’s history. In his email to faculty on Thursday, Chun said he expects that students, staff and faculty will continue to use these terms as they see fit, “without feeling that anyone is out of compliance with an official policy.”

Yale began to consider the language change last year amid growing calls for greater gender inclusivity on campus.  By the spring, the informal practice of substituting the term “freshman” with “first year” was becoming increasingly widespread. For instance, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Hannah Peck used the new term in a March 30 email to the 2017–18 class of First-Year Counselors informing them that they had been accepted for the position.

However, administrators had not then publicly raised the possibility of substituting “upperclassmen” with “upper-level students.”

Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar, who led the campus conversation about the change, told the News in March that replacing the term “freshman” is something administrators had been thinking about for some time, adding that several peer institutions had already made the move.

The University of North Carolina struck the word “freshman” from its official documents in 2009, with the University of Emory following suit in 2015. Dartmouth College, Cornell University and Columbia University also use the term “first year” in most official publications.

In March, former Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway noted that, for as long as he could remember, parents and students had occasionally expressed frustrations about the term “freshman” being gender-specific. According to Holloway, the conversation over replacing the term picked up steam due to Lizarríbar, who celebrated her one-year anniversary in the deanship last semester.

According to McKinley, since the change formally came into place, the Dean’s Office has received technical questions about the usage of the new terminology. In order to address queries concerning usage, punctuation and capitalization, a brief guide now appears on the staff section of the Yale College Dean’s Office website.

There are 1,580 first-year students enrolled at Yale.

Zainab Hamid

  • Robert Boni

    “We’re not trying to be language police.” Ha. Ha. Be honest, if nothing else.

    • Shoelace Von Hitlerpants

      Dude. What they SAID was they are not TRYING. Listen to the Language Police. Wanna design a BADGE for them?!?

  • CC

    LOL – what a bunches of doofuses……and the rest of the country will wonder what the heck they are talking about in coming years……

  • APD


  • Alan B

    This is like some strange form of OCD being thrust upon vulnerable young
    minds. When the most intellectually gifted among us are reduced to
    hunting down a bogeyman lurking in the words and letter arrangements of
    the English language. When the rules of the classroom literally forbid
    the use of gender pronouns. How can one even form a coherent thought or
    communicate in any meaningful sort of way in such a stifling atmosphere?
    When they have everyone frightened into apologetically self-policing
    every word emerging from their mouths or entered into their Macbooks?

  • Bwaaah

    “Upper Level” necessitates a “Lower Level” and thus a Supremacist way of thinking.

  • TheRadicalModerate

    Just out of curiosity, how much will this cost?

    I assume that there’s a massive database of boilerplate notifications, pamphlets, brochures, and other correspondence, all carefully version-controlled. And I assume that every single one of those has to be accessed, read for the offending words, modified in a way that makes sense, resubmitted to the publication database, and, in many cases, re-printed in hard copy and exchanged with the existing stock of hard copy.

    That sounds like thousands of man-hours (oops! staff-hours!) of work, all burdened at nice, juicy administrative wages. If you want to know why college costs are spiraling out of control, this is pretty close to a perfect example.

  • tom.55350

    Questions on the application forms referring to sex and race are at least incentive and I would argue, sexist and racist.
    I suggest questions referring to sex, race, religion and any others that might be viewed as insensitive, be immediately removed from all forms at Yale.

  • carl

    I think “first-year” is excellent, as it reminds me of Hagrid.
    But thereafter, why not stay with a chronological term? Doesn’t “upper level” just confuse? We’re not talking about a building.
    How about going with with “later-year students”?

  • ldffly

    Finally! I can take a deep breath and relax. Camille, you’re a genius.

  • Edward Devotion

    So sad and misguided, as if this will make a difference. Wasted energy on nothingness.

  • Mglass

    What’s the fuss about referring to first year students as first year students? It’s just plain English. In Australia we used this expression for first year university students long before we heard of this freshman, sophomore, senior nonsense from the United States.

    Ah! Those were the days, when university grounds were university grounds. That was before campus riots became the fashion and university grounds became campuses, even in Australia.

    So that seems to be a fair trade. We keep your ‘campus’ and you adopt our ‘first year student’ and we all speak the same language.

  • ash

    Good news!

  • aaleli

    First year snowflake, second year snowflake, etc….First year hothouse orchid, second year hothouse orchid, etc… much more descriptive.

  • RespectfullyYours

    To the Yale administration, please rethink such overstepping decisions which inevitably lead to more problems than they ever could solve. If you feel 100% confident in this decision, I ask that you look at opposing viewpoints (many of which have been articulated here) and do not allow your inner circle to cloud your vision. Sweeping change of this sort may be rejected by prospective students and their families, not to mention the suffocating impact it has on current students and professors alike.

    This appears to be the tip of the iceberg regarding attempted indoctrination of extreme viewpoints which are both unnecessary and counterproductive. This type of regulation feels like an attempt at thought control and language policing and, more than anything else, is utterly stifling to human interaction and learning, particularly on a college campus.

    Yale has been entrusted with helping nurture the brilliant young minds we all recognize in our students. Fostering intellectual growth and curiosity, not putting up roadblocks to public discourse, is what we expect from Yale.

    Love Yale and hoping for wisdom and discernment in the future.

  • Anon

    We must remove all references to whites or males on anything

  • yokel

    How about “plebe” or “swab”?