The world of campus speech codes has come full circle, with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) releasing a guide that makes the phrase “politically correct” politically incorrect.
The “Just Words” campaign, first noted by Campus Reform, is run by UWM’s Inclusive Excellence Center which says its purpose is to “raise awareness of microaggressions, their impact, [and] provide an insight into their meaning.” In line with that goal, the phrase “politically correct” (or “PC”) has been labeled a microaggression that students should avoid using.
“Over time PC has become a way to deflect, say that people are being too ‘sensitive,’ and police language,” a poster created by the Inclusive Excellence Center says. “It is disconnected from authentic understanding of impact.”
The Just Words campaign is focused on informing students, primarily via passive means like posters, of the microaggressions that pervade everyday life so they can avoid using them. On the same poster that condemns “politically incorrect,” for instance, students are also told to avoid many other words, among them:
Lame: “Ridicules and ignores the lives of amputees.”
Thug: “Assumes that violence is the sole motivating factor in an action. Ignores issues of poverty, education and other institutional barriers.”
Crazy: “[C]reates a negative and demeaning perspective of people with mental health diagnoses and undermines their, and their families [sic], struggle. ”
Man Up: “[S]uggests there is only one way to be a man. Also assumes that women can’t be courageous, strong, etc.”
Most of the words in the campaign are taken from earlier work conducted at other schools, but whoever is behind the “Just Words” campaign chose to add “politically correct” all on their own, offering a grammatically-mangled explanation on the campaign’s web page.
“I’d like to add Politically Correct (PC) to program… and seek a way to succinctly outline/define PC for its basis, purpose especially how its used now to let people hide their bias but also minimize the pushback they received after contributing aggressive,” it says. In fact, grammar appears to be a weak spot for the campaign’s leader in general, as errors and baffling sentences are common throughout the campaign’s explanation:
Through Just Words? and Just Words??, we seek to raise awareness of microaggressions, their impact, provide an insight into their meaning. We are not seeking to tell people what they can/cannot say; this will bring me to Politically Correct in moments.
Just Words has a dual meaning:
As in only à Are they really only words, so they carry no weight or added meaning?
1) As in justice à Are they said from a place of respect or belief in fairness, will it aid in creating a just culture?
Phase 2 (Just Words??) will include active programming in April 2015 in which we invite campus community members to engage in conversation (hopefully critical dialogue) about micro aggressions and the campaigns. They will be co-facilitated by IEC staff: a student staffer and me.
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