Colorado State University claims that “American” is a non-inclusive word that should be avoided.
CSU’s online Inclusive Language Guide, compiled by the school’s Inclusive Communications Task Force, lists certain words and phrases to avoid while providing replacements in an effort to help “communicators practice inclusive language and [help] everyone on [its] campus feel welcomed, respected, and valued.” The school’s Women and Gender Collaborative website directly links to the document.
CSU lists both “American” and “America” as non-inclusive words “to avoid,” due to the fact that America encompasses more than just the U.S. By referring to the U.S. as America, the guide claims that one “erases other cultures and depicts the United States as the dominant American country.” The school suggests using “U.S. citizen” or “person from the U.S.” as substitutes.
The university additionally lists many gendered words and phrases to avoid. These include “male,” “female,” “ladies and gentlemen,” and “Mr./Mrs./Ms.”
“Male and female refers to biological sex and not gender,” says the guide. “In terms of communication methods (articles, social media, etc.), we very rarely need to identify or know a person’s biological sex and more often are referring to gender.”
“Straight” is another word to avoid, according to CSU. The guide explained that “when used to describe heterosexuals, the term straight implies that anyone LGBT is ‘crooked’ or not normal,” and says to use the word “heterosexual” instead.
“Normal person” was also listed as a phrase to avoid because it “implies that ‘other’ people… are not whole or regular people.” The guide offered no substitute word because it claimed that it is never appropriate to use the phrase to describe someone.
According to the list, the phrase “handicap parking” should also not be used because it can “minimize personhood” and offend disabled people. The guide recommends “accessible parking” as an alternative.
“War,” “cake walk,” “eenie meenie miney moe,” “Eskimo,” “freshman,” “hip hip hooray!”, “hold down the fort,” “starving,” and “policeman” were among other words and phrases deemed non-inclusive by CSU.
CSU states that the document listing terms and phrases to avoid is “not an official policy or required practice,” but rather “is intended as a resource to help our campus community reflect our Principles of Community, particularly inclusion, respect, and social justice.”
“The guide is not about political-correctness or policing grammar, but rather helping communicators practice inclusive language and helping everyone on our campus feel welcomed, respected, and valued,” the guide continues.
“The guide certainly does encompass a great deal of everyday, common expressions, and it is possible that the speech of some students will be chilled if they are confused into thinking that the document represents official policy of the university,” Azhar Majeed, spokesman for the free speech advocacy nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told Campus Reform.
“However, given the introductory language…I think it would be unlikely that any student carefully reading the guide would be mistaken and led to believe they could face disciplinary action for their speech,” Majeed added.
Nicole Neily, president of Speech First, told Campus Reform that “even though these guidelines are suggested and not mandatory, they place students in the uncomfortable position of reciting politically correct talking points that they may not agree with. Words like ‘American,’ ‘male,’ and ‘female’ are used every day by billions of people around the world. When these students graduate, they’re in for a rude awakening!”
Aaron Allen, who is a third-year student at CSU, also reacted to the “guidelines,” telling Campus Reform, “what about the term ‘African-American’? Should I not use that term to describe myself?”
Campus Reform has previously reported that CSU warned against using gendered emojis to make social media interactions more inclusive.
Campus Reform reached out to CSU for comment, but did not receive a response in time for press.