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IT Strategic Initiative: Eliminating Oppressive Language in Technology


Joining organizations across the country, Northwestern IT is working to root out discrimination at any workplace level. Understanding that words carry weight and have the power to transform, Northwestern IT is committed to identifying and eradicating oppressive language commonly used in the workplace and specifically across the information technology sector. Northwestern IT's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Committee and IT Communications team are leading a two-phase approach to advance this effort to adopt a more inclusive technology-based vocabulary.

This work complements the ongoing efforts of Northwestern's Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. Learn more about how Northwestern is embracing diversity and fostering inclusion.  


Phase One (Fall Quarter 2020—Winter Quarter 2021)

  • Review customer- and internal-facing documentation to eliminate oppressive language and replace select words with commonly accepted alternative terms. 
  • Offer staff guidance and encourage the use of commonly accepted alternative terms in work-related conversations and vocabulary.

Phase Two (Winter 2021—Ongoing)

  • Work with Northwestern IT staff and external vendors to eliminate oppressive language from organization-supported back-end systems and vendor-owned services.
  • Offer Northwestern IT colleagues a streamlined way to propose alternative terms for other words deemed oppressive.
  • Conduct biannual reviews of commonly defined oppressive terms, and adjust our goals as appropriate. 

Using Inclusive Language

All Northwestern IT staff are expected to utilize inclusive language in work-related conversations and documentation. The Inclusive Language in Technology page provides approved, alternative terminology for commonly defined oppressive terms. Anyone looking to propose additional alternative terms or replace an oppressive phrase can submit a request at any time using the online feedback tool. Staff are also expected to review and utilize the University's Inclusive Language Guide


A special thanks to the Anti-Racism in Academia program and the EDUCAUSE IT Communications Community Group members for their efforts to introduce more inclusive language into the technology sector.