By Raif Karerat at The American Bazaar
Several professors at Washington State University have informed students that their grades could suffer if they use “offensive and oppressive” language, which includes “illegal alien,” “male and female,” and “colored people.”
The Fall 2015 syllabus for Selena Lester Breikss’ “Women and Popular Culture” course, first reported by Campus Reform, indicates that students could fail the course if they employ words during class or in assignments deemed off-limits by the professor.
“Gross generalizations, stereotypes, and derogatory/oppressive language are not acceptable,” states the syllabus, “Use of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist, or generally offensive language in class or submission of such material will not be tolerated,” it continues.
A further course entitled “Introduction to Comparative Ethics Studies” taught by Professor Rebecca Fowler also states that the use of “inappropriate terminology” will impact on students’ grades, “with the deduction of one point per incident.”
Fowler cites the Associated Press style guide saying, “The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person … ‘illegal’ should describe only an action.”
Professor Fowler told Campus Reform that the term “illegal alien” has saturated dominant discourses to the extent that society “associates all unauthorized border crossings with those immigrants originating from countries south of our border.”
Ari Cohn, a lawyer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told Campus Reform he considers such requirements to be contradictory, even considering the sensitive nature of the courses.
“It is notable that one of the syllabus provisions warns: ‘The subject material of this class is sensitive and controversial. Strive to keep an open mind.’ How are students supposed to approach these sensitive and controversial materials at all, let alone to keep an open mind, if they have to fear that a misconstrued statement, or one that unreasonably offends a classmate will lead to a grade reduction or even removal from class?”
Washington State University’s call against inappropriate terms follows a decision by both the University of California and the University of Tennessee to encourage students to use gender-neutral pronouns for transgender and queer-identifying students, reported The Independent.
Tutors have been requested to consider inquiring as to which pronouns students wish to be addressed by, warning against the assumption of gender-binary pronouns “he” and “she.”
Schools: Washington State University