Collective Terms Perpetuate Stereotypes and Biases: Change Begins with Leadership

A stereotypical old, bald, bearded white male professor stands scowling before a chalkboard, clutching a pipe and reading an old book
It was a sweltering July morning when an email from one of my librarians arrived in my inbox, its subject line proclaiming, “THE LIBRARIANS ARE HOT!” I had recently taken over management of library faculty and staff, and this was my first crisis. The library’s air conditioning unit had failed, and the temperature had begun to rise, affecting the comfort levels of everyone in the building. In the spirit of the phrase “trust but verify,” I walked over to the library to assess the situation. Everyone present confronted me with a different synonym for hot. It was balmy and humid and muggy and oppressive and even tropical. I contacted our facilities department, which immediately dispatched our HVAC representative to troubleshoot. I told everyone in my vicinity to please go home if they felt at all sick from the heat and returned to my office to send an email reiterating what I had just said so that all of us were on the same page.

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