One of America’s leading universities has launched a $16,000 campaign designed to teach students the negative connotations and power of certain commonly used words and phrases.
The University of Michigan’s ‘Inclusive Language Campaign’ (ILC) targets words such as “crazy”, “gay”, “insane”, “tranny”, “ghetto” and “retarded” in an attempt to raise awareness of the fact that words can offend, alienate and hurt. Dramatic hyperbolic statements such as “that exam raped me” and “it made me want to die” also appear within the scope of the campaign.
According to a statement published on the Student Life section of the institution’s website, the ILC “aims to encourage the campus community to consider the impact of their choice of words on others”.
“The ILC raises awareness about the power of words, why certain language can be hurtful to others and how to be more inclusive in how we speak and act as members of the Michigan campus community. The ILC is part of the campus-wide Expect Respect Campaign.”
The College Fix reports that promotional banners and posters, which have cost the University around $16,000, are on display across the campus, advising students against saying things that could- intentionally or otherwise- hurt others’ feelings. By signing a pledge created through the ILC, students not only promise to try and stop using language that they consider to be offensive themselves, but also agree to help their peers to “understand the importance of inclusive language” in a welcoming, multicultural and incredibly diverse community.
Within its rubric, the ILC argues that when individuals say that they “want to die”, they “carelessly diminish the experiences of those who have attempted or committed suicide”. Meanwhile, the use of phrases such as “you’re so gay” or “such a Jew” perpetuates casual- and, seemingly ‘socially acceptable’- racism and homophobia.
The campaign has been met with opposition from those who perceive its aims to be infringing First Amendment rights relating to freedom of speech; some students have reportedly questioned how the aims of the ILC can be reconciled with an academic atmosphere in which freedom of expression is encouraged and valued.
A post published on Michigan Review summarises the concerns raised by critics regarding the University of Michigan’s “misguided word-police campaign” that “tends to stifle the very academic growth it seeks to encourage.”
“College was designed to be uncomfortable. In fact, college encouraged disagreement and cognitive conflict, because professors understood that their students grew from having their ideas challenged. The Inclusive Language Campaign seeks to create a safe environment for students- but in reality it is distorted and prevents students from experiencing adversity that would leave them better off in the long run.”
In response, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald commented to The College Fix that the ILC “ is intended to be educational, not regulatory. We hope that this is the understanding that we all participate in, and that we have the power to influence campus culture.”
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