FOP and PC


To the Editors of The Crimson:

I was interested to learn that the FOP Steering Committee has changed the meaning of its acronym to "First-Year" Outdoor Program, ridding themselves of the politically incorrect, gender un-neutral word "Freshman." I have also noticed that a similar decision has been made by the editorial powers-that-be at The Crimson. While I respect the motives behond such decisions, I wonder if too much concern for gender neutrality might lead to some confusion.

If all it takes is a change in the meaning of an acronym to spend a week in the woods, does that mean I can be a FOPper again? I am, after all, a fourth-year. We might as well be consistent with our terms and get rid of sophomore, junior and senior as well. It would also make it a little easier to figure out which of our friends have taken a little longer than usual to graduate--we'd have fifth and sixth-years. But I suppose that isn't what the chairman (excuse me, chairperson) of the steering committee had in mind.

Perhaps I should be more fair. The joys of freshman year (sorry, first year, or is it first-year year?) go beyond mere labels. From the minute a young frosh (is that PC?) enters the Yard s/he is absorbed into the Harvard experience, whether or not he or she was a FOPper. He has all the riches of the university in front of her. (I'm switching pronouns, just to be fair.) That is, if s/he can get past the confusion of gender neutrality and political correctness. By that time, he or she may not even be sure if s/he is a he or a she.

But this issue is more important than the mere state of the first-year. These problems occur in gasp...Harvard classrooms. I have heard that they extend to everyday speech as well. I propose that we should all alternate the use of male and female references. By switching pronouns throughout a lecture, a professor can't be much more confusing than he (or she) already is, and the rest of us can rest assured that we are all safely in the boundaries of neutrality when we speak to one another. So what if we don't understand a word of it? Alexandra Mack '91