The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday November 30th

Groups petition The Daily Tar Heel to adopt gender-neutral language

A group of about 30 students to delivered letters and petitions to The Daily Tar Heel’s Editor-in-Chief Andrew Dunn.
Buy Photos A group of about 30 students to delivered letters and petitions to The Daily Tar Heel’s Editor-in-Chief Andrew Dunn.

About 30 students marched to the Daily Tar Heel office Thursday to deliver a petition calling for a revision of the newspaper’s language policy, which petitioners claimed was discriminatory.

The petition, which included more than 430 signatures, requested that the DTH adopt a gender-neutral language policy that would remove terms such as “chairman” and “freshman” from the publication.

Editor-in-Chief Andrew Dunn said the DTH’s language policy would not change during his editorship. Next year’s editor-in-chief could make a different decision.

The petition campaign was the result of collaboration among 11 campus groups and has the support of Chancellor Holden Thorp and Student Body President-elect Hogan Medlin.

The push for a revision comes six months after the University officially adopted a gender-neutral language policy.

Billy Kluttz, the outreach coordinator for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender -Straight Alliance, said the petition solely targeted the DTH due to the newspaper’s prominence on campus.

Under the 2008-09 editorship of Allison Nichols, the DTH used the term “first-year student” but kept other gendered terms.

“I think it’s important for a newspaper to respect the way that people self-identify,” Nichols said.

Dunn changed the DTH’s language policy back to gendered language this year. He said it provides better clarity.

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

Those opposed to the DTH’s language choices argued it discriminates against women and the transgender population.

“I wrote a letter to the editor, and I was referred to as a ‘chairman,’ and that was very unfortunate,” said Leah Josephson, co-chairwoman of Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood.

UNC Young Democrats, one of the groups supporting the campaign for gender-neutral language, raised 100 signatures in the Pit by 12:30 p.m. on Thursday alone, said Marissa Gluck, the group’s co-chairwoman.

“We’re a forward-thinking liberal arts University,” she said. “It’s the next logical step.”

That was a central point argued at the forum Thursday concerning the current policy.

Dunn said the DTH’s language policy is based on the Associated Press Stylebook. The book is a guide used to create uniform language in publications.

The DTH does, at times, diverge from the Associated Press Stylebook.

“(AP style) is not progressive, and it tends not to follow trends,” said Carolyn Edy, a Roy H. Park fellow in the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, at the forum.

UNC’s Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coordinator Bob Pleasants said small steps such as changing language policy could help solve overall problems of gender inequality.


Style changes requested

The 11 campus groups advocating for The Daily Tar Heel to adopt a gender-neutral language policy have requested the paper adopt the following changes:

-Switch from referring to individuals as “chairmen” or “chairwomen” to calling them “chairs.”
-Switch from using “freshman” to “first-year” when referring to a student in his or her first year at the University.
-Switch from calling students “upperclassmen” to calling them “upper-level students.”

Contact the University Editor at

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.


Welcome Back Edition 2021

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive