Elon University has not banned the use of the word freshman, and there is no policy dictating that the school uses the term “first-year” in place of “freshman,” according to Dan Anderson, vice president of University Communications.
The university has received national media attention since a student from Elon reported that the school is dropping the word freshman and replacing it with first year. The story, originally published on The College Fix, found its way to FOX News and The National Review Online, where the word “drop” changed to “ban.”
The university uses first-year in its admissions process because the types of students coming into college are not all traditional students who have graduated from high school.
“At almost every college, admissions is moving to this term because it encompasses traditional students and also includes transfers, spring admits, gap semester students, part-time students and non-traditional age students,” Anderson said. “It describes people spending their first year at Elon.”
Anderson explained that the term isn't Elon's alone. Duke University, the University of North Carolina system and High Point all use first-year on their admissions websites. They all refer to “The First Year Experience.” The U.S. News and World Report publishes rankings for the schools with the best first-year experience programming.
While there is no official policy on the word, first-year Blair Foreman said her orientation leader always called the group just that, and most of her professors use the term as well. She understands why the university would use it in place of freshman, but is not offended by the word.
“I get the intentions behind it,” Foreman said. “Everyone is on the same totem pole, but I don’t mind either way.”
Sophomore Tyson Glover spent his first semester at Elon in the GAP program and said he enjoyed being called first-year rather than freshman. He said it made his transition into college easier.
“Coming into Elon January was different,” Glover said. “There’s not a lot going on. First year is an all-encompassing term, and made our transition smoother. It helped us get in the same boat as the rest of our class.”
According to the original article, Leigh-Anne Royster, director of the Inclusive Community Well-Being, said the term “freshman” may contribute to sexual violence. Anderson said Royster was answering generally why people might not like to use the term “freshman,” not referring to why Elon University does not use the term.
Greg Zaiser, vice president of admissions and financial planning, corroborated Royster’s comments in the article.
“The student asked what the primary reason was for changing freshman to first year, presuming there was a change,” Anderson said. Zaiser explained that in general, some consider it a sexist term and that it is not a completely accurate description of the incoming classes.
There are some students who prefer freshman to first year, though. Firs- years Mackenzie Franklin and Daniel Maclaury prefer the word freshman, saying it is a more traditional term and more natural for them.
“First year makes it seem like I won’t graduate in four years,” Franklin said. “But I do use them interchangeably.”
Editor's note: Diana Stancy, who wrote the original article for College Fix, is a senior reporter for The Pendulum. Stancy did not write the article for The Pendulum.