The University of Michigan has spent over $16,000 at its flagship Ann Arbor campus on a campaign to encourage students to avoid using language that may be offensive, The College Fix reported Monday. That’s enough money to cover a full-tuition scholarship at the school for a Michigan resident.
The effort, dubbed the Inclusive Language Campaign, marks a variety of words as unsuitable for the refined airs of the academy. Among the offenders are “insane,” “retarded,” “gay,” “ghetto,” and even “illegal alien,” which offend the mentally ill, the disabled, gays, poor minorities and illegal immigrants, respectively.
Handy charts have been produced explaining why certain phrases are to be avoided. “That test raped me,” for instance, “carelessly diminishes the experience of survivors of sexual assault.” The innocuous phrase “I want to die” could apparently even have life-threatening implications, as it “can make survivors feel silenced by implying that self-harm is laughable or not a real problem.”
The program, in existence for the past semester, has primarily been noticed through a perfusion of signs encouraging students to remember that “your words matter.” The ILC has also held a “clothesline event” two weeks ago, which displayed student-submitted suggestions about what language could be hurtful.
Some words and phrases criticized during the clothesline event may surprise even the most inoffensive of people. One student complained about the word “kinks” (e.g. “We need to work the kinks out”), noting that it is “rooted in racism” because “kinky” has been used to describe the wiry hair possessed by many black people. Another submission complained about the cultural appropriation inherent in whites asking to be taught how to twerk.
Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told The College Fix that the campaign seeks 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.” He also stressed that the program was “educational, not regulatory.”
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