Universities move to gender-neutral communication

By Olivia Rizzo
Staff Writer

In an effort to be more inclusive, Princeton University’s Office of Human Resources sent out a memo earlier this month to its staff and faculty that outlined new guidelines for using more gender-inclusive language in its job postings, Human Resources (HR) communications, policies and job descriptions, according to AOL.

“These communication guidelines reflect the inclusive culture and policies at Princeton University,” the memo reads. The document further explains, “Gender binary is the traditional view on human gender, which does not take into consideration individuals who identify as otherwise, including and not limited to transgender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming and/or intersex.”

A number of tips are given throughout the memo to aid staff in making the language they use more gender-neutral. Princeton’s HR office suggests avoiding or replacing gendered pronouns when applicable, and incorporating titles that are gender neutral.

Examples include replacing “actress” with “actor,” “cleaning lady” with “office cleaner” and “mailman” with “mail carrier.” For more general terms, replacements include changing “average man” to “average person,” “mankind” with “humankind” and “layman” with “layperson.”

Princeton isn’t the only college campus striving to create a more inclusive environment for its students and staff. The University of Missouri (MU) has also taken to renaming its unisex bathrooms after complaints that the term wasn’t inclusive. The restrooms intended to be used by people of all genders will now be labeled “toilet,” a change that is meant to accommodate students of all genders.

“‘Unisex’ is just such an uncomfortable and outdated word,” Sterling Waldman, an MU student, told the Columbia Missourian. Waldman also serves as the social justice chair in MU’s student senate, and as a result of Waldman’s efforts, the student government has agreed to donate $5,000 for the sake of relabeling bathrooms around campus.

However, the donation is not enough to replace every relevant bathroom sign on campus. It is currently estimated that it will cost at least $11,600 to change relevant signs for all 28 unisex restrooms on campus, a figure of over $400 per bathroom. The school cannot currently supply the funds to finish the sign change due to budget cuts and a drop in the university’s enrollment totals.

As with any amount of change, reactions have been mixed to the language change on both campuses. Many Twitter users have been very vocal about their dislike for the new change in language, but only time will tell if the new policies will stick.