A university department in the US has said it has removed the word “field” from its curriculum because it may have racist “connotations”.
Under the change, phrases including “field work” and “going into the field” will no longer be used, according to a letter from the school of social work at the University of Southern California (USC).
Explaining the decision, it said: “We have decided to remove the term ‘field’ from our curriculum and practice and replace it with ‘practicum’.
“This change supports anti-racist social work practice by replacing language that would be considered anti-Black or anti-immigrant in favour of inclusive language.
“Language can be powerful, and phrases such as ‘going into the field’ or ‘field work’ maybe have connotations for descendants of slavery and immigrant workers that are not benign.”
The letter was addressed to staff and students from the “Practicum Education Department”, which until recently was called the Field Education Department.
It continued: “Our goal is not just to change language but to honour and acknowledge inclusion and reject white supremacy, anti-immigrant and anti-blackness ideologies.
“We know changing terminology can be challenging, and a complete transition will take some time.”
In a statement to Fox News, USC’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work said it was “joining other universities in making this change”.
“I understand that this decision was made by the Office of Practicum Education out of a desire to more accurately describe its work,” the school’s interim dean Vassilios Papadopoulos said.
“Because the Office is not an academic department, its name change was not subject to a formal review process.
“The university does not maintain a list of ‘banned’ or discouraged words.
“As an institution of higher education, we will continue to use words – including the word ‘field’ – that accurately encompass and describe our work and research, while also continuing our efforts to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all.”
The move at USC comes after Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services said it would discontinue the use of “field” and “field worker”, instead using terms such as “local office” and “community staff”.
“Staff and stakeholders have raised concerns about the use of the term ‘field worker’ and its implications for descendants of Black and Brown individuals,” it said in a memo.
“While the widespread use of this term is not intended to be harmful, we cannot ignore the impact its use has on our employees,” the memo reads. “Establishing shared language is essential to our collective progress.”
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