By: Rob Shimshock
George Mason University advised graduate teaching assistants (TAs) during a mandatory training Tuesday not to use words or phrases including “freshman,” “last name,” and “it is easy to imagine.”
The school made these suggestions in a tips and strategies guide entitled “Creating Inclusive Classrooms” obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. The guide also advised graduate TAs to include a diversity statement in their syllabi and ask students for their name and pronoun.
“Make sure that your syllabus is written in non-sexist, gender-inclusive terms,” the guide suggests. “For example, use the phrase first-year student versus freshman, humankind rather than mankind, etc.”
“Strive for inclusive language that does not assume Eurocentric name forms,” continues the guide. “For example, use family name rather than last nameor given name versus Christian name.”
George Mason recommends that graduate TAs make sure students can pronounce each others’ names, suggesting using notecards with phonetic spelling. Graduate TAs are also encouraged to ask students for the name and pronoun that agrees with their gender identity and expression.
“When lecturing, avoid exclusionary phrases such as ‘everyone knows…,’ ‘it is easy to imagine…,’ or ‘certainly the answer is obvious…,’ the guidelines continue. “These phrases assume a shared cultural context and can function to silence or discourage students from asking questions.”
Dr. Laura Lukes, assistant director of George Mason’s center for teaching and faculty excellence, coordinated the session at which the graduate TAs received the guidelines.
George Mason advises using media that are “gender-neutral” and “stereotype-free.”
“I won’t avoid saying things like ‘mankind’ or ‘freshman,’” the graduate TA told TheDCNF. “They aren’t even gendered words, kind of like ‘history.’ Not that I would avoid gendered words anyway.”
Lukes and George Mason University did not respond to requests for comment.
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