“Alumnx a•lum•nx noun \ uh-luhm-niks \ Vermont College of Fine Arts values diversity, inclusivity, and respect for all. In keeping with these principles, VCFA has adopted the term alumnx to refer to our graduates. This non-binary, gender-neutral term embraces the full spectrum of gender identities within our community and reflects the college’s ongoing work to ensure a welcoming, safe, and collaborative environment.
…After thoughtful deliberation across the institution, we consider this break from the traditional term “alumni” to be a clear step toward exercising more intentional language, which we strive to implement in all aspects of college life.
While the term “alumni” in its Latin origins is inclusive of male and female, such terminology adheres to an outdated, limited concept of gender. As an institution that believes in the vitality of words, we are committed to moving beyond the default, the traditional, the assumed. We are committed to the practice of pushing back against binary systems which inherently oppress and dismiss anyone who does not see themselves within two distinct categories. We see you. We value you. With this change, we recognize the importance of language and its ability to empower those who have come through our VCFA programs. Each one of our graduates is a vibrant individual and part of a collective that upholds equity and celebrates difference. In our mission to be “a global community of artists continuously redefining what it means to be an arts college,” we openly embrace opportunities for change that embody our belief that “the arts are central to the human experience and have the ability not only to reflect reality but also to create it.” We welcome you to share your thoughts with us firstname.lastname@example.org”
It is an odd explanation. Vermont first states that it will only tolerate “non-binary, gender-neutral” terms. It then admits that “alumni” is gender neutral and is “inclusive of male and female.” Yet, it still states categorically that it “adheres to an outdated, limited concept of gender.” No explanation is given how it adheres to gender bias as a gender neutral term. The school simply declares “we see you. We value you. With this change, we recognize the importance of language and its ability to empower those who have come through our VCFA programs.” Yet, it ignores the actual language and only empowers to the degree that it replaces a gender neutral term with a gender neutral term.
The move is reminiscent of our own debate at George Washington over the use of the Colonials as a moniker
. The student organizers asked “When we talk about the Colonial in history, what does it mean? And is that really what we want our school identity to be?” The emphasis however is the history of colonialism in the world, not the Colonial as a term in the United States. Just as we strive to understand the meaning and traditions of other countries, there should be a modicum of effort to recognize our own meanings and traditions. The Colonials fought against foreign rule. They were not advocates of colonialism
. For those interested in GW, that is part of understanding our history and our values. It simply does not matter that the Colonials were anti-colonialism. The victory is pretending that they are something that they were not and then changing the term to reject a falsely claimed meaning.
It does not even help to change the name to Coloniax.
There are important issues that we should be discussing about racial and gender bias. It is hard to see how replacing already gender neutral terms advances those efforts.