Sexist term in catalog causes debate

By Suzanne Tomse

Eliminating the use of sexist language in the NIU Undergraduate catalog was one of the goals discussed at the Council on Instruction’s Thursday meeting.

Continuing a process started in 1985 to change all the sexist terms in the catalog, the council wants to change the word “statesman” in the Political Science 450 course description. However, the political science department does not wish to make the change.

At a previous meeting Feb. 5, council members decided to notify the political science department about the catalog policy established by the council and the Graduate Council which requires the use of non-sexist language in course descriptions.

Despite notification of the policy, the department still does not wish to make the change, according to Clark Neher, chairman of the department.

“It is my view that the word conveys the exact meaning of that course, and there is no equivalent,” Neher said. In addition, he said the term is used throughout the profession by both men and women.

Council member Herb Rubin, associate professor of Sociology, said the political science department is apparently convinced that “statesman” is the right technical term.

Council members agreed the political science department might be using “statesman” as a professional term. However, they were unsure of whether the department’s argument was of a technical or sexist nature.

“We want to use inclusive language,” said Lida Barrett, associate provost. She added that women need to be included in usage now.

There should be “some way to come up with a term” to replace “statesman,” said council member Joanne Fox, associate professor of Theater Arts.

“We (women) are professing to be leaders in all areas of endeavor. At some point, we are making a statement on how to view tradition,” she said. Fox said it is an “unbelievable insult” to call women “statesmen.”

The council decided to research the professional usage of the term before accepting the department’s position on the change. Council members will review the Modern Language Association guidelines and will also determine the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s policies on the use of sexist language.