Banned Words
by FG
Posted here June 29, 2015

The road back home

It's in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, for goodness sakes: "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . ." Is there anyone who doesn't understand what that means? It means as a free American citizen I can say whatever I want (as long as my words don't lead to the physical harm of others -- like shouting "fire" in a movie theater, for example). My thoughts and words are not controlled by the government. I am free to say whatever I wish.

Yet, there are colleges and universities across the country compiling lists of words students must not use, phrases that are forbidden, and all sorts of rules about what can and can not be spoken. These, mind you, are the institutions intended to be forums of debate; they're where issues are expected to be argued back and forth. These are the institutions that now wish to squelch any comment they disagree with.

The First Amendment wasn't provided to protect uncontroversial speech. There's no need to protect that; it's uncontroversial. The First Amendment was expressly provided to protect uncomfortable, disagreeable, and contentious speech.

The 'Inclusive Language Campaign' at the University of Michigan (Source.)

Dozens of posters plastered across the University of Michigan caution students not to say things that might hurt others' feelings, part of a new "Inclusive Language Campaign" at the state's flagship public university that cost $16,000 to implement.

Words declared unacceptable through the campaign include "crazy," "insane," "retarded," "gay," "tyranny," "gypped," "illegal alien," "fag," "ghetto" and "raghead." Phrases such as "I want to die" and "that test raped me" are also verboten.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the campaign aims to "address campus climate by helping individuals understand that their words can impact someone, and to encourage individuals to commit to creating a positive campus community."

Macalester College Seeks to Ban 'Offensive Phrases' Like 'You Guys,' 'Derp' . (Source.)

Students at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota are going to have to start watching their tongues, for a new campaign introduced on campus seeks to ban words like "girl," "derp," "lame," "crazy," "gay," "invalid," "spaz," "retarded," and "you guys" in an effort to halt "oppressive" language.

The campaign encourages students to become more aware of the words they use, because if they don't, they "may inadvertently use the power of our voice to oppress and degrade others."

Elon University Bans the Word "Freshman" (Source.)

Elon University in North Carolina has banned the word "freshman" from its website and student orientation, claiming it's sexist and suggests that the young women might make good rape victims. It's replacing the word with the term "first-year."

Ironically, numerous students have stated they were actually more comfortable with the word "freshman."

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has also eliminated the word "freshman" from its official university documents as part of a concerted effort to use "gender inclusive language." (Source.)

PC Police at UC Berkeley Want to Ban One of the Most American Phrases of All Time (Source.)

The administrators at UC Berkeley want to ban certain phrases on campus. Among them: "America is a melting pot," "Why are you so quiet?" and "I believe the most qualified person should get the job."

These innocent phrases are said to be racist and sexist.

Should Colleges Punish Swearing? (Source.)

At Hinds Community College in Mississippi, "public profanity, cursing and vulgarity" are all punishable with a $25 fine for a first offense, and a $50 fine for a second offense.

Further, the offense of "flagrant disrespect" (which may be demonstrated by swearing), can earn a student demerits that could lead to suspension.

Forbidden at the University of California (Source.)

A University of California faculty seminar discussed "diversity in the classroom" at nine of the 10 UC campuses during the 2014-2015 school year. A worksheet at these ceminars was entitled "Tool: Recognizing Microagressions and the Messages They Send." The opening sentence: "Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership." The ultimate cure for such "hurtful" behavior? Banning free speech.

Examples of "microagression" statements were listed: "You are a credit to your race." And "Wow! How do you become so good in math?" And "Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough." And "Where are you from" or "where were you born?" And (said to an Asian person): "You must be good in math, can you help me with this problem?" And (to a woman of color): "I would have never guessed you were a scientist." (Source.)

Politically Correct Speech at CUNY (Source.)

"Mr.," "Mrs.," and "Ms" are being shown the door at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

At CUNY, school staffers have been advised to refrain from using gendered salutations in correspondence with students -- and instead use a student's full name, according to an internal university memo.

Campus Speech Codes: Absurd, Tenacious, and Everywhere (Source.)

The University of Connecticut banned the "use of derogatory names, inappropriately directed laughter, inconsiderate jokes, anonymous notes or phone calls, and conspicuous exclusions from conversations and/or classroom discussions."

Free Speech Dying a Slow Death on Campus (Source.)

It was reported in The Washington Post that, during a university panel on free speech (of all things), "Smith [College] President Kathleen McCartney had joked, 'We're just wild and crazy, aren't we?' In the transcript, the word 'crazy' was replaced by the notation: '[ableist slur]."

Term of Endearment Is on List of Words to Ban (Source.)

The word "bae" is on a list of a dozen words to be banned at Lake Superior State University. Others include "cra-cra" (short for crazy-crazy), "takeaway," "swag," "curate," (which means chosen), "skill set," "enhanced interrogation," and "foodie." Other words: "polar vortex," (a large pocket of very cold air), "friend-raising," "hack," (meaning to gain unauthorized access by manipulating a computer code), and "-Nation" when used as a suffix for fans of a sports team, celebrity, or politician.

Lake Superior State has been publishing a list of bad words since Jan. 1, 1976.

Free Inquiry? Not on Campus (Source.)

In their 1993 book, The Shadow University, Alan Charles Kors and Harvey Silverglate turned some of the early speech codes into national laughingstocks. Among the banned comments and action they listed: "intentionally producing psychological discomfort" (University of North Dakota), "insensitivity to the experience of women" (University of Minnesota), and "inconsiderate jokes" (University of Connecticut). Serious nonverbal offenses included "inappropriate laughter" (Sarah Lawrence College), "eye contact or the lack of it" (Michigan State University), and "subtle discrimination," such as "licking lips or teeth; holding food provocatively" (University of Maryland).

Later gems, added well after the courts struck down (as overly broad) some campus conduct codes, included bans on "inappropriate non-verbals" (Macalaster College), "communication with sexual overtones" (Lincoln University), and "discussing sexual activities" (State University of New York at Brockport). Other campus codes bar any comment or gesture that annoys, offends, or otherwise makes someone feel bad. Tufts ruled that attributing harassment complaints to the "hypersensitivity of others who feel hurt" is itself harassment.

Free Speech and Safe Spaces on College Campuses (Source.)

Free speech has become an increasingly limited and precarious right, especially on college campuses. Some 58 percent of public campuses still enforce shockingly illiberal speech codes. Furthermore, 1 in 6 of America's largest and most prestigious colleges have free speech zones which limit where free speech can occur. Some of these zones compromise areas as miniscule as 1.37 percent of the total campus, and many require weeks-long approval processes for any expressive activity.

Speech Codes Have Expanding Dramatically (Source.)

There were approximately 75 hate speech codes in place at U.S. colleges and universities in 1990; by 1991, the number had grown to over 300.

Critics assert that the costs of hate speech codes far outweigh their benefits. Threatened by "politically correct" speech codes, students will be afraid to speak in classes. As a social institution, a university should be open to all opinions, popular and unpopular. As Oliver Wendell Holmes commented, "The very aim and end of our institutions is just this: that we may think what we like and say what we think." Speech codes thus inflict a major harm on our social institutions.

Speech Codes: The Biggest Scandal on College Campuses Today (Source.)

At the end of 2012, it was reported that 62 percent of all the higher-education institutions surveyed maintain policies that restrict a substantial amount of speech protected under the First Amendment. Included in the 62 percent are Harvard, Columbia, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Speech codes come in many forms. The University of North Dakota bans student speech that "feels offensive" or "demeaning." The University of Missouri at St. Louis boasts a policy restricting speech that will "discredit the student body." Texas' Sam Houston State University broadly prohibits "abusive, indecent, profane or vulgar language." (Just how is a student to know if something he or she says falls in one or more of these categories?)

But there's some good news. Although the percent of schools with speech codes (62%) is high, in 2007 it was 75 percent. So progress has been made. But, given that universities have been sued at least 22 times since 1989 -- with virtually every challenge leading to the university either settling and withdrawing its code or losing in court -- why do any speech codes still exist?

Obama Administration Pressures Universities to Adopt Unconstitutional Speech Codes Report dated June 19, 2015. (Source.)

Under the Obama administration, the Education Department has pressured universities and the public schools to restrict speech, including off-campus speech, even when it is protected by the First Amendment. The Education Department claims this is required by federal anti-discrimination laws such as Title IX and Title VI, even when the speech is not severe and pervasive.

In May 2013, Obama's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) ordered the University of Montana to ignore the requirements in the Supreme Court's Davis decision (that speech be severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive) in its internal Title IX investigations of harassment and retaliation, effectively commanding colleges to adopt speech codes broader than those struck down by the federal courts in cases like Saxe v. State College Area School District (2001) and DeJohn v. Temple University (2008).

Since 2013, the Office for Civil Rights has sent conflicting signals about what definition of hate speech should be adopted by colleges, but it is not surprising that colleges that want to avoid a Title IX inquisition have adopted strict speech codes to avoid potential harassment by the OCR, as in fact, many colleges have. The result: Draconian restrictions on speech at many of the colleges and universities around the country.