- - Sunday, October 1, 2017


Good news is beginning to seep from the campus, not much but some, a heartening prospect for those with the patience to look for it. Shame may be coming back from exile.

Yale University was once one of the great centers of learning and sent the sons of Eli out to spread knowledge and wisdom to the far-flung corners of civilization. In recent years the university has demonstrated only that it didn’t flung it far enough.

The university board and its administrators, in the relentless pursuit of something silly to attract the righteous and the pious to New Haven, has dropped the terms “freshman” and “upperclassmen” for terms considered “more gender-neutral.” The correct nomenclature is “first-year” and “upper-level students.”

“I want you to know that this terminology now appears in the Undergraduate Regulations and First-year Handbook,” Marvin Chun, the dean of Yale College,” told arriving freshpersons this fall. “And my hope is that by the start of the 2018-2019 academic year, it will appear in all Yale College’s publications and communications.”

But he said it with a roguish wink, a nudge, and a revealing however. “I recognize that the terms ‘freshman’ and ‘upperclassman’ are deeply ingrained in our everyday language and in Yale’s history. And I expect that the members of our community, ourselves included, will use these terms as they or we see fit, without feeling that anyone is out of compliance with an official policy.” Nobody will call the cops if someone overhears a furtive lower-level student speak the forbidden. We have a new F-word.

The “improvements” in the language of kings are spelled out clearly in the Official Handbook, under the heading Guide to Gender, which only demonstrates how the campus has crumbled. Once upon a time, in a past remembered by men and women still alive, college boys had no need of a guide to gender. They relished finding out about gender — it was called “sex” — all by themselves.

Nevertheless, time marches on and time and tide wait for no man, or woman, either. The handbook is obviously not the work of administrator or professor, but of lawyers called in to come up with language that would not offend the transgender students. First, never use the word as a noun. It’s always an adjective. And students and faculty must never “fixate on surgeries, which transgender people may or may not undergo.”

Sometimes a transgender might prefer to wear panties, at other times a jockstrap, and diversity in choosing a gender must be respected at all times. “We should all be encouraged to ask people what pronoun they use. If it is not possible to ask for a preferred pronoun, use the pronoun that is consistent with person’s appearance and gender expression. For example, if the person wears a dress and uses the name ‘Susan,’ feminine pronouns are appropriate.” Never take verbal shortcuts. Never describe someone in the full flower (or vegetable) of gender diversity as “being deceptive, fooling or pretending to be a man or woman, [or] posing as a woman or man.”

Reality dies hard on campus. The unreconstructed sons of Eli, if there are still such, can take comfort in the subtle hints of Dean Chun that he understands that this is the season of maximum moonshine. No one will go to jail for ignoring the speech code, and this, too, shall pass. (We must hope.)

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