At the University of Wisconsin (UW) at Milwaukee, using words such as "lame," "crazy," "trash," and "politically correct" is too… politically incorrect.
UW-Milwaukee’s Center for Inclusive Excellence is warning students not to use certain phrases, which it lists on its “Just Words” posters on and around campus, Heat Street reports. These words are not advisable for students to use because according to the Center, they have “become a way to deflect, say that people are being too ‘sensitive’ and police language.”
For example, "trash" should be “used with caution” because it “uses class to marginalize and dismiss individuals of lower socioeconomic status.” "Retarded" targets people of “varying cognitive, emotional, and physical abilities as objects for ridicule.” "Rape" should not be used because it “minimizes experience of sexual assault survivors.”
"Man up" is a triggering phrase to women because it suggests only men can be strong or that “there is only one way to be a man.” "Crazy" is demeaning to “people with mental health diagnoses.” "Politically correct (PC)" is a phrase politically incorrect people use when they want to say something that is, well, politically incorrect.
The Just Words program is funded by student funds, and according to the UW-Milwaukee spokeswoman Michelle Johnson, was initiated in response to “a growing number of questions and comments from students about microaggressions, what they meant and where they come from.”
The list of words deemed unsafe on campus by the UW administration was compiled by students and faculty members, using existing research on "harmful" language. Students who read the posters are encouraged to send in their own words to add to the list.
“The team used multiple sources to explore the origins, context, and impacts of the terms and phrases, including multiple dictionaries and people’s experiences with words,” Johnson said. “Once the team arrived at an initial description of the origin and impact of the term, we asked colleagues, peers and experts to review and offer their input.”
Johnson said she hopes the program will raise students’ awareness of which words are appropriate for them to use and ask themselves, “Are the words I am choosing truly conveying what I want to say?”
Ari Cohn, an attorney with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) said the university should be careful not to police the language of students, as such actions are clear free speech violations.
“While universities are free to educate students about the impact of certain words or language and encourage them to consider that while speaking to one another, such efforts must be strictly aspirational,” he said. “A university that engages in a campaign like this must be careful and make clear to students that no administrative or disciplinary action will be taken against those who do not agree or comply with the universities views.”
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