Ortiz: CSU does not force inclusive language; we embrace it

Kenia Ortiz

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

On Nov. 4, The Collegian published the column “CSU has gone too far with inclusive language” written by my colleague Katrina Leibee.

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Many disagreed with what was said about inclusive language going too far at Colorado State University, and I would like to provide insight on what inclusive language is and why it is important.

Inclusive language is non-discriminatory language used to avoid false assumptions about a person or group of people. Inclusive language is being heard from both professional and student staff at CSU to make a more inclusive community. Inclusive language includes but is not limited to: ability and disability, age, gender and sexuality, nationality, race, ethnicity and religion.

CSU is not forcing or punishing their students for not using inclusive language. All CSU asks is for students to be aware that certain terms can offend and generalize certain communities. 

It’s about respect. 

As a third-year student, I was unaware of the importance of inclusive language until my second year. Through experience, classes and personal interactions I learned about my privileged and marginalized identities. This has led me to support inclusivity while Leibee’s identities, including being a first-year in her first semester, may contribute to her stance.

An important example of inclusive language is gender pronouns. Gender inclusive pronouns do not associate a gender with the individual who is being discussed because there are individuals who do not identify with binary male and female pronouns. This can be because the individual does not want to be identified with the stereotypes of what it means to fit the male and female pronouns.

When talking to a group of people, the popular term “you guys” is beginning to be replaced with “you all” in order to respect and include individuals who do not identify as male. While some individuals do not mind being referred to as “you guys,” there are others who do, and that should be respected.

CSU is not asking for students to rid the term “you guys” out of their vocabulary. CSU is simply helping raise their students’ and staffs’ awareness of others’ identities and how popular terms can be non-inclusive.

Using non-inclusive terms can also reinforce stereotypes and continue the cycle of oppression.

Pragya Agarwal, who is a creative strategist, social entrepreneur and mental health campaigner said, “There has always been a male bias in how offices are designed, how they look and how they feel.” This is a major issue in the workplace.

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When CEOs, architects or engineers are referred to and the term “he” or “him” is used, it dismisses women and invalidates the hard work women put in to get those positions because they are categorized as masculine. 

Just because we leave college doesn’t mean that suddenly inclusive language disappears. As we leave college, we have the opportunity to create learning experiences in our future endeavors. It is our job as students to be the change we want to see in the world,” – Daniell Plomondon, third-year Neuroscience student.

“The word ‘b*tch’ is used when referring to a female-identifying individual who is taking charge,” said Clay Westbrook, a fourth-year business and natural resources student. “If it is a male-identifying individual, the act of taking charge is respected and expected, however, when it is a female identifying individual, there is a negative response.”

According to TEXAS CASA, bringing unconscious assumptions into conversations when not using inclusive language with children can be harmful and alienating, and discourage them from fully opening up — especially for children of color, LGBTQ and those who identify with other minority groups.

If you are pulled aside or told that a saying or term you said was offensive, it is important to not react in anger. It is important to step back, listen to the person, let them know you did not mean to be offensive and apologize. Just because you do not find a problem with something that was said, it could be a problem to someone else.

The world outside of CSU is not as up to date with inclusive language and that is for us to change. When CSU students and staff go out into the world, they decide whether or not they want to incorporate inclusive language in their life. They are never forced.

“Just because we leave college doesn’t mean that suddenly inclusive language disappears,” said Daniell Plomondon, a third-year neuroscience student. “As we leave college, we have the opportunity to create learning experiences in our future endeavors. It is our job as students to be the change we want to see in the world.”

CSU does not monitor and expect students to change their way of speaking, but does ask them to be mindful of how their words can affect others and educate themselves on different identities.

There are multiple truths at CSU in an estimated community of over 30,000 people so generalizing and assuming that everyone has the same background, story and preferences is unacceptable.

Inclusive language is not about political correctness. It is about being mindful when it comes to communicating with others and doing it with empathy.

“People are scared of change and inclusive language is a big change to how we talk to one another and unlearn terms that are deep-rooted in our society,” said Yoshika Okada, a second-year business student.

Inclusive language is a work in progress and is slowly being introduced to CSU and I am excited to see it grow and educate the community and future Rams to come. 

Kenia Ortiz can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @Kenia_Ortiz_