These words were not a problem until we made them a problem

If you’re a freshman this year amidst the hustle and bustle of starting college, moving in and figuring out your new routine and lifestyle, orientation leaders at Colorado State University introduced you to an important aspect of CSU’s culture: inclusive language.

Inclusive language includes every identity, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc. During orientation, we were introduced to gender pronouns such as “they, them, theirs.” This is something to be excited about, and most of us actively respect people’s gender pronouns, but as the semester continues, it has become obvious that inclusive language extends way beyond gender pronouns.

It is great for students to try to use inclusive language, but it has become an expectation of students. This expectation might not be entirely fair. We have been asked to get rid of the language we have been using for as long as we have known the English language.

We were told that the popular term “you guys” was not inclusive of all genders, and we should instead replace it with “y’all.” We were told to use the term “first-year” instead of “freshman,” because “freshman” is not inclusive of all genders.

After getting involved in residential leadership, I was told not to use the word “dorms,” and replace it with “residence halls.” Apparently, dorm refers to only a place where one sleeps, and residence hall refers to a place where we sleep, eat, study and participate in social activities.

A countless amount of words and phrases have been marked with a big, red X and defined as non-inclusive. It has gotten to the point where students should carry around a dictionary of words they cannot say.

In a meeting with Zahra Al-Saloom, the director of Diversity and Inclusion at Associated Students of Colorado State University, she showed me an entire packet of words and phrases that were deemed non-inclusive. One of these phrases was “long time, no see,” which is viewed as derogatory towards those of Asian descent.

Al-Saloom believes inclusive language is important at CSU.

“(It) incorporates identities without the binary,” Al-Saloom said. She does not believe it is okay to say “you guys,” but expressed a willingness to educate. “I’m not gonna try and change them, but educate them.”

We have been asked to phase out phrases from our language that we hear every day outside of this campus. However, we were never asked if we felt these terms were not inclusive, we were told.

“As a woman, I feel excluded when the term ‘you guys’ is used,” said Lauren Rodgers, the Director of Residential Development for Residence Hall Association, an organization on campus that strongly emphasizes inclusive language.

A question I would pose to all women on this campus is, do you actually feel excluded by the term “you guys,” or were you told that “you guys” excludes you?

The Department of Education released an inclusive language guide in 2012, and while it contains gender inclusive terms, the one term it does not mention is “you guys.”

I asked both Al-Saloom and Rodgers the question: If this sort of language is not censored outside of this campus, why should we censor it here? Rodgers responded, “Even if the world isn’t good, you should be good.” Al-Saloom responded that, “CSU abides by the principles of community, and we want to make it an inclusive space.”

“Even if the world isn’t good, you should be good”

– Lauren Rodgers, Director of Residential Development

While this is all good and well, eventually we will all have to leave the inclusive, non-offensive bubble that we are living in at this school and step into a cruel world that doesn’t care about any of this language we have just spent 4 years adapting to.

Inclusive language should not be taught at CSU, instead, each individual student should get to decide whether this is something they want to change, without anyone correcting them.

We should all consider the possibility that these words were not a problem until we made them a problem. These phrases were not exclusive until we decided they were. Ultimately, the word “freshman” is never going to go away just because CSU has decided it should.

 

by Katrina Leibee

Katrina can be reached at [email protected] or Twitter @KatrinaLeibee.


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