Gift. Bunny. Female. America. Christmas tree.
Do any of these words offend you? They should — at least according to Michigan State University.
If you’re confused as to why these deceptively innocent terms are actually very offensive, the school’s Inclusive Guide is here to help get your vocabulary into “alignment with strategic efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Referring to classmates as freshmen or upperclassmen is a no-no.
Instead, the guide suggests you swap those for “first-year” and “advanced” to avoid “male-centric and western father-son language.”
Evidently, the word female is a “pejorative term [that] reduces women to their assumed biological anatomy.”
Don’t refer to anyone as “crazy,” “nuts” or “loony.”
That’s “ableist language.” But don’t worry — you can still call them “silly,” “absurd” or “outrageous.”
This list of “offensive” words, which MSU has published on its website “to inform general communications” at the school, is just the latest symptom of the war on free speech that’s being waged on campuses.
Such guidelines purport to promote inclusion.
But, in all reality, they’re authoritarian dictates that actually exclude anyone who can’t keep up with the ever-growing list of offensive terms.
Avoid the word “terrorist” because it’s a “judgmental label.” Wouldn’t want to offend terrorists!
Referring to the United States as “America” could also be offensive.
It’s “American-centric” and “first-world language” since the Americas technically also encompass South and Central America.
And, most urgently of all, “references to majority religious imagery and language” should be avoided — which will be a real minefield with Easter coming up.
Some potentially triggering terms include: bunnies, eggs, chicks. Not sure how Cadbury is going to handle this one.
And don’t worry, Christmas isn’t left out. Avoid using the word merry, Christmas trees, wreaths, holly, bells and gifts.
Better start practicing now: “Happy December 25th. I have a box wrapped in paper for you.”
And don’t even think of mentioning Rudolph.
Reindeer is apparently a bad word, too.
This all might be confusing, but rest assured it’s for the sake of “inclusion.”
“The origins of seemingly innocuous idioms or words may be racist, sexist or ableist in nature,” the guide warns. “Consider the origins of everyday language before freely using it in communications.”
Michigan State isn’t the only university exposing “innocuous” words for the verbal assaults they apparently really are.
Other schools with similar lists include Indiana University at Bloomington, the University of Texas at Austin, Brandeis University and the University of San Francisco.
In fact, even the most elite schools are joining the fight.
Stanford recently sparked outrage by releasing its own language guide which claimed “American,” “immigrant” and “walk-in hours” are all somehow offensive.
After facing backlash, the school ultimately walked back the list.
These lists are teaching students that words can wound and speech is violent.
It’s clear that students are taking the messages to heart.
So much so that they’re even throwing tantrums when words make them feel “unsafe.”
That’s exactly what happened earlier this month at Stanford when a hundred heckling students derailed a Trump-appointed federal judge’s talk on campus.
They, mind you, were law students at one of the best schools in the country.
Someone might want to tell them that judges won’t be issuing any trigger warnings when they’re in court for a murder case.
The message sent to faculty and staff alike is clear: Watch your mouth.
Virtually anything you say could be construed as offensive.
This sort of language policing has contributed to a crisis of self-censorship.
In fact, 83% of students report feeling that they have to watch what they say on campus.
And who can blame them? Universities are literally publishing lists of “problematic” language.
And some are even setting up bias hotlines so that offensive speech can be immediately reported to campus authorities.
The whole purpose of an education is grappling with difficult, provocative and, yes, even offensive ideas.
That’s how you learn and grow.
College and university staff are supposed to foster free expression on their campuses.
But now they’re making sure nobody utters the word “bunny.”
American higher education has lost the plot.
While the rest of the country grapples with a tumbling economy and soaring crime, campus administrators are hard at work protecting students from rogue mentions of eggs and holly.
Considering college campuses are among the most progressive and inclusive bubbles in the world, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that DEI staffers need to fill their days doing something.
Even if it’s stomping out references to reindeer.