Petition Looks to Change ‘Freshman’ to ‘First Year’

Photo by Nicole Williams

A petition has been circulating Ramapo in an effort to eliminate the label “freshman” from the community’s vocabulary and question the political correctness of the term.

“Most people don't think about it, but the term freshman or freshmen indicates that an entire class is made up of men. At Ramapo, that is simply not the case,” senior Jordan Moses, who spearheaded the petition, said.

Moses has been the driving force behind this campaign. He explained that, according to data from the 2013 U.S. World and News Report, Ramapo's student body is 51.5 percent female, and this statistic has been even higher in the past. This is not just a pattern at Ramapo — it has become the norm across the country.

According to a Forbes report, the U.S. average percentage of women attending public colleges has reached 56.4 percent; more than half of college students in the country are women.

“By using a more gender neutral term, as we do with the terms sophomore, juniors and seniors, we are being more inclusive of all students, regardless of where they identify on the gender spectrum,” Moses said.

The petition proposes that the term “freshmen” be changed to “first year students.” Some offices on campus, including CAAFYE, have already started using the more gender neutral term. Their programs, such as the "first year seminar" and "first year student challenge" are a few examples of this. According to Moses, other colleges, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have already made this change.

“We would like to see all offices and websites use this new terminology and have the provost and president make some type of formal declaration that from now on the college will use the term first years across campus,” Moses said.

The Ramapo community, however, has had mixed feelings about the change.

“I don’t think changing the word will make a real difference — 'man’ is the root of so many other words. As a female, I don’t really find it offensive,” sophomore Monica Lucianna said.

“Man,” as a few students have pointed out, is also the root of the word “human” and “mankind,” making the word more gender neutral than the petition purports.

Other students, according to Moses, have responded positively to the petition, reaching out to him and applauding his efforts to make a change. As of Wednesday night, the petition had reached 47 supporters.

“I cannot understand why so many people are against it,” said Moses. “I can't see any way that this would negatively impact anyone and only see it as a positive.”