Culturally Sensitive Terminology

University Nondiscrimination Policy

Illinois Wesleyan University does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation including gender identity and expression, disability or national origin in its admissions policies, educational programs and activities or employment policies. Inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policy should be directed to the Office of the President, Illinois Wesleyan University, P.O. Box 2900, Bloomington, IL 61702-2900.

Illinois Wesleyan University expressly recognizes the requirements of Title IX legislation. Title IX complaints should be reported to the University’s Title IX coordinator, who is the who is the Associate Provost (211 Holmes Hall, (309) 556-3255).

Illinois Wesleyan University does not discriminate on the basis of disability in admission or access to, or treatment or employment in, its programs and activities. The Vice President for Business and Finance, the Vice President for Student Affairs/Dean of Students, and the Associate Provost are designated by the University to coordinate all efforts to comply with Section 504 and its implementing regulation 34 C.F.R. Part 104 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. All questions should be directed to the University compliance coordinators indicated above.

Preferred Terminology

American Indian

Synonymous with Native American, though choice should be left to individual or group preference. Use specific identification, such as Sioux or Navajo, whenever appropriate.


Use to express dual heritage for someone of Asian descent. However, when appropriate, use a more specific identification, such as Japanese-American.


The preferred AP style: Use African-American or African American if quoted or as part of an organization’s name. Preference should be left to individuals or groups.


To avoid gender-bias in written materials when possible, gender-neutral terms should be used.
When appropriate, substitute non-gendered terms for those with masculine or feminine markers.
       e.g. firefighter, police officer, flight attendant, server
       Not: fireman/firewoman, policeman/policewoman, steward/stewardess, waiter/waitress
Avoid substituting person for man.
       e.g. chair
       Not: chairman, chairwoman, or chairperson
       Exception: official titles including the terms chairman or chairwoman
When appropriate, write in the plural.
       e.g. All students must meet with their professors.
       Not: Each student must meet with his professor.
       Never: Each student must meet with their professor.
When appropriate, write in the second person.
       e.g. Students, you should bring your books to class.
       Not: Each student should bring his books to class.
Avoid the third-person singular, gendered pronouns.
       e.g. Each applicant submitted a resume.
       Not: Each applicant submitted his resume.
Avoid slash constructions. If necessary, write he or she.
       e.g. All performers played their instruments.
       Not: Each performer played his/her instrument.
AP style notes that a few terms are still used to provide gender specificity.  If desired, use of these terms may be avoided by substituting a verb for a noun.
       e.g. host/hostess; Mrs. Smith was the hostess.
       Instead: Mrs. Smith hosted the party.
Some proper terminology is gender specific.
       e.g. alumna/alumnae/alumni/alumnus
When using terms such as these generally, the masculine/all plural form alumni is preferred. When using one of these terms in reference to one specific person, the gender specific should be used.
       e.g. All alumni were recognized.
       Not: Each alumnus was recognized.
       Exception: Dr. Mona Gardner is an alumna of the University of Cincinnati.
See also Emerita, emeritae, emeriti, emeritus under Section II.
See also Alumna, alumnae, alumni, alumnus under Section II.


Hyphens are often used in conjunction with “American,” particularly in the cases of Indian-American, Italian-American, and Mexican-American, etc.; however, choice should be left to individual or group preference.
       Exception: American Indian, Native American
See also Hyphens under Section II.


Use to express heritage for someone whose ethnic origin is in a Spanish-speaking country. Some prefer the term Latino (masculine) or Latina (feminine). Use a more specific identification when appropriate, such as Cuban-American.


Use the term multi-denominational to describe a service that covers all Christian denominations; the regular IWU Chapel Hour is an example of this. The term non-denominational typically refers to Christian religions that develop their own specific beliefs, which vary from church to church. The term interfaith refers to services that include two or more religions.
Capitalize the names of religious orders and the terms applied to their members.
       e.g. They are members of the Roman Catholic Church; They are Catholic
Do not capitalize terms such as church when used descriptively.
       e.g. a Roman Catholic church
Terms such as rabbi or priest follow the same rules as other titles. 
       See also Titles under Section II.


The preferred term for someone who is either gay or a lesbian is homosexual, though it is acceptable to use either. Bisexual may be used for someone who is sexually attracted to members of both sexes. Transgender should be used for an individual whose self-identified gender diverges from his or her assigned gender. Transgender individuals may identify themselves as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual or asexual. Use transsexualonly when referring to an individual who has undergone a sex change operation. However, choice of terminology should be left to individual or group preference.