University department cancels use of the word 'field' because of 'racist connotations'

12 January 2023, 08:38 | Updated: 12 January 2023, 08:47

Field to be removed from the curriculum and academic terms such as "field work" will be ditched

A department at the US university has cancelled use of the word field. Pictured, a field in England
A department at the US university has cancelled use of the word field. Pictured, a field in England. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The word ‘field’ has been cancelled by a department at a leading US university because it might offend descendants of slavery and immigrant workers.

The word will be removed from the curriculum and academic references such as ‘field of study’ will be replaced with the word ‘practicum’, the Telegraph reports.

The decision has been taken by the University of Southern California.

In a letter explaining the decision, the university said: “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.

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“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 university wanted to "reject white supremacy, anti-immigrant and anti-blackness ideologies,” the letter adds.

One former graduate posted on social media: "I am so embarrassed at what’s happening there. I wonder how much of my money they spent on coming up with this amazingly useful change.”

Another posted: “What's next, banning the wearing of clothes made of cotton?”

A third wrote online: “They should drop "Southern" from University of Southern California because it reminds people of slavery."

A similar move was taken by Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, which says it will no longer use the term "field worker" in communications, citing the term's "implication for descendants of enslaved Black and Brown individuals."

A memo sent by the department on January 4 states: "While the widespread use of this term is not intended to be harmful, we cannot ignore the impact its use has on our employees.

"Establishing shared language is essential to our collective progress."