(CNSNews.com) “The words you use may have an impact on others,” says the University of Maryland’s “Inclusive Language Campaign,” on which the publicly funded schoolspent $15,000 in 2012 to curb the use of “offensive language.”
“Consider the power of your words as you choose what to say, and consider different ways that you can communicate the same message,”says the campaign’s website. “If you are offended by someone’s language, engage them in a discussion. Ask them what they really meant by what they said.”
The campaign provides examples of what it views as offensive speech, and then offers alternative terms.
For example, instead of using the phrase “illegal alien,” the campaign encourages students to use “immigrants,” “undocumented immigrants,” or “undocumented citizens.”
Instead of using the phrase “that’s so gay,” to describe something in a negative way, students should use “inappropriate,” “weird,” “strange,” “out of place/order/line,” or “wrong.”
The website includes testimonial videos from students who support the campaign because it makes them feel better.
Robert Shibley, senior vice president for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), said he doesn’t see anything wrong with encouraging students to avoid speech that some people may find offensive.
“To the extent that the University of Maryland wants to persuade students to use less offensive speech, ultimately that’s an argument for politeness and it’s their prerogative to do so,” Shibley told CNSNews.com.
Shibley say problems occur when a state-funded institution such as the University of Maryland implements speech requirements by way of speech codes, for example.
On its “Resources” page, the Inclusive Language Campaign notes that its goal is not to be the “language police.” The goal, it says is to “educate and create conversations around language and inclusion on campus.”
Links to advocacy organizations are available for students seeking more information on inclusive language. Organizations include but are not limited to: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Southern Poverty Law Center, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC.)
The Inclusive Language Campaign is administered by the Department of Residential Life and Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy Office (MICA), and was made possible by a grant from the U-Maryland’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion.