The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday January 24th

UNC Honor System implements gender-neutral language

The UNC Honor System has adopted gender neutral language, adhering to a University policy statement that calls for the use of inclusive language. 

The change was officially implemented on Sept. 18, but the process of switching to gender neutrality began last semester after the Student Congress’ student code became gender inclusive.

After being approved by the Committee on Student Conduct, Student Congress and the Faculty Council, Chancellor Carol Folt signed off on the change in July. As of now, the online honor code has been updated with the gender-inclusive language.

The language change applies to the Instrument of Student Judicial Government, which acts as the honor code. It includes everything ranging from forms to scripts read in Honor System hearings. 

“It’s great for people who are reading the Instrument, but also for anyone who interacts with our system in any other way,” said Jacob Friedman, the undergraduate student attorney general.

Luke Stidham, chairperson of the Undergraduate Honor Court, said many of the pronouns in the honor system were “he” or “him.” Changing the language was an important goal for the Honor System.

“We felt strongly about implementing it as leadership,” Stidham said.

The process was student-led, and Friedman said the change was inexpensive.

“I think one of the best parts about having a student-led system is that it is so dynamic in that when the student body changes, the system can change with it,” Friedman said. “That’s one of the things that excites me about it, we’re changing with the student body.”

UNC joins many other colleges around the country who are in the process of changing their university's documents to gender neutral language. The University of Virginia Honor Committee announced in September it will attempt to change the language of their bylaws and constitution.

“It’s important because it’s more inclusive of everyone, and it is more accurate, because not everyone identifies with binary,” Terri Phoenix, director of the LGBTQ Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, said. “And if you’re using language that is grounded in the binary gender system, then you’re going to be leaving out people.”

UNC already has a policy statement on gender inclusive language stating that gender-inclusive terms, like "chair" or "first-year student," should be used “on University documents, websites and policies.” Phoenix said the Honor System is simply abiding by the policy.

Despite the passing of the University policy, Phoenix said not all University documents switched to gender neutral language.

“The Center was among many people that were advocating for this policy change since 2006,” Phoenix said. “I’ve seen some movement, but there is still work to do. There are some policies that aren’t written in gender neutral language. Where there is copy of any kind that doesn’t use gender inclusive language, it needs to be changed.” 


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