Stanford University is taking hits for a language guide put out earlier this year that lists “harmful terms” to be avoided, including the term “American.”
The University launched a website in May as part of its Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative (EHLI), a multi-phase, multi-year project to address harmful language in I.T. at Stanford. The website states that its objective is geared toward “helping individuals recognize and address potentially harmful language they may be using.”
Social media users have been poking fun at a new list of “harmful language” crafted at Stanford University—which includes supposedly offensive terms like “American,” “brave, and “addicted.” https://t.co/nmq3RPpAQG
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) December 20, 2022
Categories containing “harmful” language include Ableist, Ageism, Culturally Appropriative, Gender-based, Imprecise Language, Institutionalized Racism, Person-First, and Violent. Terms that don’t fit into any of those categories are gathered under “Additional Considerations.”
Among words marked for elimination is the term “American,” which, according to the website, should be replaced with “U.S. Citizen” because “American” typically refers to “people from the United States only, thereby insinuating that the U.S. is the most important country in the Americas.”
Other harmful terms include the word “abort,” which is to be replaced by “cancel” or “end. “The word child prostitute” should be replaced with “child who has been trafficked,” so the person is not defined by just one characteristic, and the term “Karen” should be replaced with “demanding or entitled White woman.”
To remedy institutionalized racism, the EHLI suggests avoiding words like “black mark” and “black sheep” because of “negative connotations to the color black.” It also suggests avoiding the term “grandfathered,” and replacing it with “legacy status” because of “roots in the ‘grandfather clause’ adopted by Southern states to deny voting rights to Blacks.”
The EHLI requests that the word “preferred pronouns” be replaced simply with the word “pronoun” because “preferred” suggests “non-binary gender identity is a choice and a preference.”
The “ableist” section suggests “died by suicide,” to replace the term “committed suicide” and the use of “anonymous review” instead of “blind review.”
The index suggests not using the word “brave” at all.
Social media commentators did not hold back their amusement and contempt for the new list.
Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Robert P. George, tweeted that, although ridicule is rarely appropriate, Stanford University’s new “harmful language” guide “invites it.”
Although ridicule is rarely appropriate, Stanford University's new "harmful language" guide invites it and the Stanford Review, entirely appropriately, accepts the invitation.https://t.co/5kqcVM9nC9
— Robert P. George🇻🇦🇺🇸🪕 (@McCormickProf) December 20, 2022