Ridiculox: Schools Are Adopting Gender Neutral Alternative To The Gender Neutral “Alumni”

Most colleges and universities have committed themselves to being more inclusive environments in recent years, including the replacement of certain terms with gender neutral alternatives. This effort however appears now to be changing terms that are already gender neutral. Schools like Loyola University, California Institute of the Arts, Rutgers University, the University of California-San Diego, the University of Michigan, College of the Atlantic, Drew University in New Jersey, Swarthmore College, and the Vermont College of Fine Arts have reportedly dumped the word “alumni” to replace it with “alumnx” – much like the move to drop Latino or Latinx. The problem is that “alumni” is already gender neutral but that does not apparently matter in claiming a new gender reform.“Alumni” of course already is the plural referencing all genders.  As Cambridge Dictionary notes, there are binary terms but not the term alumni:

“Alumni can be used to refer to men only, and in that case alumnae is used to refer to women only, but more often alumni is used to refer to either or both sexes where both attend the same school. The singular forms are alumnus for a man, and alumna for a woman.”

Thus, “alumni” is only binary in the sense that there are other binary terms available for references to male alumni or female alumnae.  However, alumni has always been used as a non-binary alternative. Thus, it has been used to refer to all women or all men or mixed groups. After teaching over 30 years, I have rarely heard any reference to “alumnae” or any term other than “alumni” to refer to multiple members.
Vermont explained it move in the following way:
“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 atalumnx@vcfa.edu”
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.

77 thoughts on “Ridiculox: Schools Are Adopting Gender Neutral Alternative To The Gender Neutral “Alumni””

  1. Alumnx is NOT gender-neutral. The appended “x” derives from the female x-chromosome. This so-called gender-neutral explicitly excludes men and is discriminatory. Males should either be refered to as alumny or the truly gender-neutral alumnxy should be employed. STOP THE HATE!

  2. Alumnx is NOT gender-neutral. The appended “x” derives from the female x-chromosome. This so-called gender-neutral fix explicitly excludes men and is discriminatory. Males should either be refered to as alumny or the truly gender-neutral alumnxy should be employed. STOP THE HATE!

  3. Why is there such anxiety about gender pronouns? This is a manufactured crisis.

    If I can’t tell someone’s gender I just use their name.

    This is nothing to get neurotic over.

    I have no idea how to pronounce “Latinx”. It’s not proper English or Spanish. Spanish plurals like Latinos are already gender neutral.

    We need to refuse to get sucked into this neurosis. You know you live in a safe, well fed country if agonizing over gender pronouns occupies your time. People around the world worry about getting enough food, water, shelter, or avoiding tribal warfare. They aren’t wringing their hands over enforcing 75 different gender pronouns.

    Human’s imagination is infinite. Possible pronouns are infinite.

    People cannot control how others perceive them.

    1. Makes me miss the good old days.

      Sadly, I don’t remember most of the 80’s.

      But what about the 90’s asteroid crisis. Remember when the leading scientists said we needed to develop an early warning and defense system before the earth was leveled by an asteroid?

      Or the peak oil crisis of the aughts. When as a matter of scientific certainty oil production had reached its peak and was beginning its inevitable decline, so we needed to transition away from fossil fuels while there was still time.

      And now this new crisis of gendered languages. The worst offenders are Emmanuel l Macron and the French nationalists with their hateful, misogynist language. It is past time for a UN-backed coalition to eradicate French and replace it with Esperanto, the universal language of equality and peace.

      Sure beats foraging for food.

      1. Peak oil for domestic conventional oil in the USA was 1970. Globally, around 2007. Fracking postponed rationing.
        Peak natural gas in the US from conventional fields was 19 trillion cubic feet. In 2018, it was about 6 trillion.
        Fracked wells don’t last as long as conventional. Sure would be nice if there was awareness of this, but that would require understanding what it takes to power everything.
        As for pronouns, I like “y’all.” Among other options.

      1. You can say Latin-ex. I can say it. But “x” in that position is as hard for a Spanish speaker to say as it is for an English speaker to pronounce the Russian word “vzglyadat'”.

        1. Right X has a Hhhh sound May hee co
          Xavier is Javier which is pronounced hav yee er
          so at the end when there is no nound following it, the sound would be unpleasant and ridículo

          you might be accused of being a culo of you made such a bizarre sound

          But the people saying it are American “Latinos” so they usually speak English.

          I been around plenty of Mexicans in my life over decades and I never heard a Mexican say something silly like this.

          Mostly I think this comes from the politicized “Latino” ethnics operating on the coasts.

          spasiba tovarisch

      2. Kurtz – thanks! I learn something new every day.

        I still don’t want to be forced to use Latinx, but at least now I can pronounce it properly.

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