Michigan Launches Campaign To Stop Students From Using Words Such As “Gay,” “Ilegal Alien,” or “Crazy”

10406369_322412331277747_7680132564831969271_n225px-Umichigan_color_sealThe University of Michigan has spent $16,000 on a campaign to get students to use “inclusive language” and stop using certain words and phrases. Around campus, posters give examples of the now verboten words like “crazy,” “insane,” “retarded,” “gay,” “tranny,” “gypped,” “illegal alien,” “fag,” “ghetto” and “raghead.” In fairness to the school and students, there program is broader than just the listing of offensive terms and phrases. The campaign is also featured on Facebook.

What is interesting is that some of these words are quite offensive like “rag head,” “jewel” and “fag” among others. However, the list also reinforces that concern that, once schools begin to list approved and disapproved words, there is a slippery slope toward the inclusion of any word that could possibly insult any person or group. For example, most of my friends who are homosexual refer to themselves as “gay.” Likewise, “ghetto” is a long standing word that was used in Europe and other places to refer to impoverished areas. However, the posters ask “If you knew that I grew up in poverty, would you still call things ‘ghetto’ and ‘ratchet’?”

“I wanted to die” is listed as offense to “people who have attempted or committed suicide.” Putting aside the question of how you offend someone who did not simply attempt but actually committed suicide, some would contest the view that the phrase implies that “self-harm is laughable or not a real problem with which many people deal with.”

The University of Maryland has spent $15,000 on a similar campaign three years ago.

Once again, there is much to support in this program. It is an educational campaign without any threat of punishment over the use of these words. It is primarily asking for people to think about the impact of their words — a commendable goal. However, the list itself shows how easily such campaigns can become over-inclusive in words deemed offensive by some one and raise concerns over de facto speech codes. For example, if these words are now deemed offensive, then presumably they could be used against speakers for violating the university’s stated rules and responsibilities. These include such violations as:

“Stalking, harassing, or bullying another person–physically, verbally, or through other means”

Two of those terms are defined as:

Harassing: (1)to annoy persistently (2) to create an unpleasant or hostile situation for, especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct

Bullying: (1) to frighten, hurt, or threaten (a smaller weaker person), (2) to act like a bully toward (someone), (3) to cause (someone) to do something by making threats or insults or by using force, (4) to treat abusively, (5) to affect by means of force or coercion

It is not clear when words publicly listed as being offensive can be used as the basis for charges under such rules. Likewise, it is not clear where free speech rights trump popular sensibilities. The term “illegal alien” is used in legal opinions and many still view the term as accurate and contest the removal of the reference to illegal status in describing this group. It is a matter of intense public debate but the question is whether the university should take a position on such a question. The handbook for Michigan states “The University has a long tradition of student activism and values freedom of expression, which includes voicing unpopular views and dissent. As members of the University community, students have the right to express their own views, but must also take responsibility for according the same right to others.” That can be an uncertain line to draw in the midst of a campaign over offensive terms and phrases.

Below is the poster from the campaign:


92 thoughts on “Michigan Launches Campaign To Stop Students From Using Words Such As “Gay,” “Ilegal Alien,” or “Crazy””

  1. What about banning “oh my god” or “hell,” since some people don’t believe in God or hell.

  2. I always thought that the 1st Amendment gave me the right to be offended. I don’t even use the word “offended” anymore. We have the right to be offensive and to be offended. Aren’t these college students adults? What happens when they get into the real world and job market? Will they have “safe places” and “trigger words” in the business world?

    This is not preparing your kids for life. My kids will be prepared because they aren’t going to the University of Michigan. This same school stopped the showing of American Sniper during the last school year due to complaints from a small minority of students. If you want your kids to get prepared for the “real world”…..don’t send them to the University of Michigan.

    1. davesweeny9 – I wonder what is going to happen to these kids the first time they get reamed out by their boss. Are they going to faint at the first micro-aggression?

  3. Happypappy-

    Free Will is an unalienable right

    That’s not the case. Almost everyone is alienated from their free will. If we exercised our own free will, I doubt many would be working low paying jobs, tolerating a government we can’t stand, or paying taxes (to name a few things).

    You’re never as much as a slave as you are when you believe you are free.

    1. Are you alienated from yours?

      I immediately thought of 2 poems
      where I always melded 2 of the Stanzas.

      Stone walls do not a prison make,
      Nor iron bars a cage;
      For I am the Master of my fate
      I am the Captain of my Soul

      What did you chose Anarchist?

    2. Anarchist wrote: “Almost everyone is alienated from their free will. If we exercised our own free will, I doubt many would be working low paying jobs, tolerating a government we can’t stand, or paying taxes (to name a few things).”

      According to Locke, will and desire are separate things. Where does the role of discipline and sacrifice come in? Can a person desire one thing, but will another, for the sake of the greater good. Is it not called sacrifice? I would love to go fishing on my boat every day (that is desire), but I will myself to work hard every day instead so my family can have a home, food, and various pleasures that make them happy. Fasting comes to mind on this subject. When a person fasts, their body desires food, but by their will, for either religious reasons or as a strike against oppression by their food provider, they choose another.

      I think I remember you saying that you belonged to the Christian religion. You once had your avatar being the image of Charles Finney. Have you ever read Jonathan Edwards’ book, On the Freedom of the Will? I don’t think I have read anything that stirred my thinking about the concept of the Freedom of the Will than when reading the Calvinist perspective of Edwards on this subject. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about it if you have read it. Following is a link to the book online:


  4. Here, why not a mere $100 campaign to pay for posters: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never harm me.” Is it not time JT to push students to build spine, instead of always encouraging them to whine and whimper?
    G. Tod Slone, Ed. The American Dissident

  5. Hotsy todsie, I smell a Nazi.
    –Curley, Three Stooges. Just before he sent his kid off to school at Michigan University.

  6. Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

    Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    The quotation stems from Niemöller’s lectures during the early postwar period.

    1. Hey BarkinDog Free will will never go out of style. They invented a particular version of that in our neck of the woods I think at Club Imperial 😉

  7. Anarchist 2.0 – been thinking about it. Maybe you are mespo. You writing styles are similar and you have that Flowers for Algernon smell about you.

  8. Inga-

    Anarchist, she gave her email out on this blog

    That’s nothing, she gives her real name and physical address on her profile page. God bless her for being such a trusting soul. It makes me think she doesn’t have a vindictive bone in her body. But she needs to be a little more discrete.

  9. Anarchist, she gave her email out on this blog to her buddy who also gives out his email to those he sees as recruit material, lol. It takes all kinds to make the world go round…

  10. Happypappy,-

    As long as Anarchist can control the blog with his manner of “free speech” all is well

    Don’t whine about the power you grant me honey. . .and take your name and address off your profile page. You’re a grown woman, don’t be so naive as to broadcast your personal details to any stranger that should happen upon it.

  11. As long as Anarchist can control the blog with his manner of “free speech” all is well 😉

  12. When one throws rocks at Michigan, as I did here in comments above, one does not have to be drunk or insane. Or an imbecile. Three generations of those are enough. But I was not throwing rocks at other commenters here. I am against pirate territories which now enact rules which proscribe speech. Civility Rules for students at a great university. Rules are like rulers. I am not speaking about Julius Caesar type rulers. No. I am speaking of the tools. The tools of tyranny. There is a song about this. I only recall some of the verses. It was sung at a catholic elementary in Ferguson before Ferguson was dubbed Ghetto by the media. The song ridiculed nuns who enforced civility.

    [music to the tune of Glory, Glory Halleluyah]

    Glory! Glory Halleluyah!
    Sister hit me with a ruler!
    I beaned her in the bean with a rotten tangerine!
    And school kept marching on.

    To those of you who throw darts at others on the blog here I suggest that you get civil and adhere to rules laid down by your preacher, your Pope or your favorite vampire. Or, get a three foot long wooden ruler and go seek out a job at a catholic elementary school where you belong.

  13. Anarchist 2.0 … you are a phony. Combat experience relates to knowing when to use violence and when not to do so. My remark was prompted by your prior “armed to the teeth” remark. No where in my response subsequent to your “drunk” remark did I mention combat. Have a good day now.

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