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Texas State University

Guide to Terminology

When talking about something as important and complex as inclusion and diversity, we must understand each other. Here are explanations of the words we’re using in these conversations.


ADA, ADAA: the Americans with Disabilities Act (signed into law and amended in 1990, amended again in 2008), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, programs, and services provided by state and local governments; goods and services provided by private companies; and in commercial facilities. According to the ADA, a person with a disability is anyone who: has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such impairment. The Office of Disability Services supports people at Texas State who have disabilities.

Discrimination: action toward a specific person or group of people that subjects them to treatment that adversely affects their employment or education because of their race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability, veterans’ status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The university’s discrimination policy describes how we handle these actions at Texas State.

Diversity: the quality of a group of people or ideas being composed of differing types, characteristics or elements. A diverse group is one that has a variety of people in it. Diversity encompasses demographic characteristics such as race, age and sexual orientation; differing abilities; and experiences, such as veteran status, religious affiliation, socioeconomic background and more.

Gender expression: the ways in which people externally communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, haircut, voice and other forms of presentation. Gender expression also works the other way as people assign gender to others based on their appearance, mannerisms and other gendered characteristics. Sometimes, transgender people seek to match their physical expression with their gender identity, rather than their birth-assigned sex. Gender expression should not be viewed as an indication of sexual orientation. The Alliance vocabulary page is a good resource for more information.

Gender identity: a person’s innermost core concept of self, which can include boy/man/male, girl/woman/female, a blend of both, neither and many more. Gender identity is how each person perceives themselves and how they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be consistent with, or different than, their sex assigned at birth. Gender identity can evolve and shift over time, especially as someone gets older and has access to a broader gender vocabulary. The Alliance vocabulary page is a good resource for more information.

Harassment: extreme or outrageous acts or communications that: are intended to harass, intimidate or humiliate students, faculty, staff or visitors on account of race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability or sexual orientation; and reasonably cause them to suffer severe emotional distress; or sexual harassment.

Inclusion: creating a community in which all people feel welcome and recognized. A group can be diverse without being inclusive — for example, if certain members of the group are treated adversely because of characteristics that they don’t share with the rest of the group.

Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI): a college or university in which people of Hispanic descent make up at least 25% of the student body. Texas State’s Hispanic student enrollment surpassed 25% in 2010, and we were granted Hispanic-Serving Institution status in 2011.

Majority-minority: describing a group of people in which a majority of the group is made up of people from racial or ethnic minorities (when compared to the rest of the nation). For example: In the United States, white people are a majority of the population (about 60%) while other races and ethnicities are considered minorities; Texas State has a majority-minority student population, in that more than half of the student body — about 54% — is non-white.

National origin: the country that a person is from, or that a person’s ancestors came from. The place where someone currently lives may or may not be the same as their national origin. When the university says that we do not discriminate on the basis of national origin, it means that we treat people equally regardless of what country they or their family are from.

Protected speech: communication that is protected from government regulation under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (This type of communication is often called “free speech,” and the right to use it is often called “freedom of speech.”) Speech may be offensive while still being constitutionally protected. Some examples of speech that is not protected are: targeted harassment, threats of real harm, defamation and inciting someone to commit a crime. While the government is restricted from regulating protected speech, protected speech can lead to other social consequences such as being removed from a leadership position in an organization, losing peers’ respect and so on.

Race: a category of classifying people who share certain physical traits such as skin color.  Race is a cultural construct, varying over histories and cultures, that has real impacts on people’s lived experiences.

Sexual orientation: the way a person experiences physical, emotional and/or romantic attraction toward other people. Straight, gay, bisexual and asexual are some sexual orientations. The Alliance vocabulary page is a good resource for more information.

Title VI: prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race, color or national origin. “Title VI” refers to part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These federal “titles” have built on each other over time, adding protections for more characteristics of people.

Title VII: prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. “Title VII” refers to part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These federal “titles” have built on each other over time, adding protections for more characteristics of people.

Title IX: prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of gender, sex, gender identity or expression, and sexual orientation. “Title IX” refers to part of the federal Education Amendments Act of 1972. These federal “titles” have built on each other over time, adding protections for more characteristics of people. Learn more about Title IX from the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

Did we miss a term that’s necessary for understanding the rest of this website? 

This list is not intended to cover every term related to inclusion and diversity, but we hope that it provides a good foundation.