UNC student paper will no longer use the word 'freshman'

The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, has decided it will no longer use the word “freshman.”

According to an article in Monday’s edition, “[i]n the interest of inclusivity, The Daily Tar Heel will from now on use gender-neutral language in its stories… we all see a pressing need to be inclusive in the way we write about people.”

The student publication will undergo several changes, including the use of the term “first-year” in place of “freshman.” Additionally, the paper will use gender-neutral terms such as “spokesperson” and “chairperson” instead of “spokesman” and “chairwoman.”

In other instances where a gendered term would be commonly used, the paper says it “will find a gender-neutral alternative.”

In 2010, student groups at UNC Chapel Hill petitioned then Editor-in-Chief Andrew Dunn to revise the newspaper’s language policy. Dunn stayed firm and refused to change the policy, stating that the next editor could change it.

“We are in the business of communication,” Dunn stated. “The terms that we use, like ‘freshman,’ are the ones that are most recognizable.”

According to the paper, Dunn was simply upholding the AP Style Guide’s decision to use “freshman” instead of “first-year students.”

The Daily Tar Heel’s current editor in chief, Paige Ladisic, told Campus Reform the paper decided to make these changes to align with the changes the university made several years ago.

“UNC is such an interesting campus, always challenging its students, faculty, staff and administration to be more inclusive, more understanding and more accepting, and UNC actually changed from "freshman" to "first year" in 2009 or so,” Ladisic said. “For five years, the DTH stood by the AP Stylebook's ruling on this and disregarded the university's ruling, and I never considered challenging this myself.”

Ladisic said while the term “freshman” has never struck her the wrong way a lot of her staff and other students have voiced the discomfort they feel by “being gendered in words like “freshman” or “spokesman.””

“One important thing all of us had to think about was that we don't serve ourselves, the journalists, at the DTH — we serve our readers,” Ladisic added. “And if our readers care about something, we should respond responsibly. That's what we are trying to do here.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ChrisNuelle