Campus Free Speech

University of Michigan Spends $16,000 Telling Students Not to Say Offensive Words, Like 'Crazy'

Everything is offensive to someone, so shut up! Says U-M


Mikamatto / Flickr

On their way to class each day, students at the University of Michigan encounter banners and posters warning them against using non-inclusive language like "that's so gay," or "retarded." The full-list of inappropriate phrases includes less obviously offensive things, like "I want to die," and "that test raped me"; it also includes downright inoffensive words like "crazy" and "insane."

It gets worse. The effort previously included a clothesline of hurt feelings where students were asked to respond to the prompt "Would say this…?" with "if you knew that…" and then give an explanation. A sampling, courtesy the Inclusive Language Campaign's Facebook page:

Would say you this…? "We/I just need to work the kinks out." If you knew that… "this sentiment is rooted in racism—kinky hair is beautiful. Natural hair is powerful. Hair is political and so is "the pesonal.""

Would you say this…? "Can you teach me how to twerk?" If you knew that… "People of privilege consume, appropriate, and reject the culture of minority communities at their convenience when it's "trendy.""

Would you say this…? "Don't be a wuss—take some shots" If you knew that… "my father was an alcoholic."

These sentiments aren't really objectively offensive at all—they are merely offensive to someone for reasons no other person could know up front. By this low standard of offendedness, absolutely every expression in the English language would be objectionable to somebody, somewhere. Aside from the obvious problem of teaching students that they should be walking on eggshells all the time, isn't conflating actually racist statements with the above a tad bit, um, offensive?

The campaign asks students to pledge not to say offensive things to each other. It's reminiscent of the University of California-Davis "Words that Hurt" activity, with the crucial distinction that participation in UM's program is voluntary. It did cost the university $16,000 to implement, however. According to The College Fix:

Though only in existence for one semester, the Inclusive Language Campaign has maintained a strong presence throughout the university. Students roaming the campus frequently encounter posters of all sizes reminding them: "YOUR WORDS MATTER," and asking questions such as: "If you knew that I grew up in poverty, would you still call things 'ghetto' and 'ratchet'?"

Representatives of the Inclusive Language Campaign did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The College Fix.

Junior Kidada Malloy, who helps promote the program on campus, told the Michigan Daily the campaign "is a great program because it will improve the day-to-day language of students on campus by providing education around words that are offensive."

University representatives stressed that the program doesn't trample anybody's free speech rights:

"This program is intended to be educational, not regulatory," Fitzgerald said of the campaign. "We hope there is only the understanding that we all participate in, and have the power to influence campus culture." …

Asked if the campaign stifles free speech, Fitzgerald said "we believe this program has just the opposite effect."

"We believe it will make discourse more constructive by respecting the views and perspectives of others," he said. "A campus conversation about the impact of words is good for everyone."

I see little evidence that the conversation is anything but one-sided. The message of these campaigns often seems to be, when in doubt, say nothing! That's hardly the right lesson for a university to impart to its students.

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  1. Asked if the campaign stifles free speech, Fitzgerald said “we believe this program has just the opposite effect.”

    What twisted logic does it take to imagine that restricting or demonizing certain words or phrases leads to freer speech? It’s a hop skip and a jump from that to full Orwell.

    1. i don’t even think you need the jump.

      1. I don’t think the skip is necessary either.

        1. Not even to the loo?

          1. As a certified lunatic, I find you use of the diminutive “loo” offensive to my category.

    2. These here “free speech” supporters need to realize that Michigan is one of many institutions giving our nation’s hungry youth an opportunity to watch their tongues before they get into serious trouble. It starts with saying hurtful things like “crazy” and “insane,” and then before you know it they’re impersonating some of our professors with them there “parody” tweets, and when that happens our professors need to go to criminal court to testify against these young hoodlums. See the documentation of America’s leading criminal satire case at:

  2. Where’s the list of people it is OK to offend? Because we all know that it’s OK to offend certain people at the expense of others. Principals, not principles.

    1. Just think white heterosexual males and you won’t be too far off base.

    2. From everything I’ve seen it seems to depend on the science of Victimology. Groups are ranked in order of victim status and higher status victims are free to say whatever they like to groups of lower status. Thus gays can insult women, Muslims can insult Jews, etc. It doesn’t seem to be fixed, however, and the hierarchy of victimhood shifts according to the whims of the priestly castes in our universities.

    3. Ken Freedman used to let Andy Breckman make jokes about albinos, but stopped several yrs. ago.

  3. That’s just crazy! (couldn’t help it.)

  4. Junior Kidada Malloy, who helps promote the program on campus, told the Michigan Daily the campaign “is a great program because it will improve the day-to-day language of students on campus by providing education around words that are offensive.”

    HA HA HA! Good one Robby! For a second, I didn’t realize you took a passage out of Red Scarf Girl and replaced “Zheng Ming” with Kidada Malloy and “People’s Daily” with “Michigan Daily”.

    1. College students need to be taught to recognize offensive language? I didn’t know anyone like that. Everyone I knew were well-versed in offensive language. When handed a foreign language dictionary, the first thing they looked up would be an offensive word.

  5. Coach Harbaugh will put an end to this crap.

  6. Parents paying to send their kids to this place are getting gypped.

    1. “gypped”.

      i see what you did there.

      1. Should be “Roma’ed”?

  7. “Write these words in your little red book. Read them everyday. Do not allow them to be said.”

  8. So, are we doing shots or not, wussy?

    1. It’s five o’clock somewhere. What about people who don’t work a traditional shift? That comment could be offensive!

      1. Actually, at the time you posted (2:42PM EST), it was not 5:00 anywhere. Stop oppressing me, timeist!

  9. “We believe it will make discourse more constructive by respecting the views and perspectives of others,” he said. “A campus conversation about the impact of words is good for everyone.”

    He’s certainly not being niggardly with his expectations for the program.

    1. Nothing says “constructive discourse” like controlling the words your opposite number is allowed to say.

    2. they’re just trying to deal with a chink in their armor.

  10. I’d weep for the thin-skinned, spineless youth of today if it wasn’t so much fun to offend them.

  11. As a Poultry-American, I find “walking on eggshells” to be offensive and smacking of genocide.

    1. We already had the abortion thread for the day. And check your clucking privilege.

      1. Don’t make me cross the road to picket you.

        1. Q) Why did Epi cross the road?

          A) He couldn’t get his dick out of the chicken.

          1. Q) Why did the condom cross the road?

            A) It was pissed off.

  12. Could someone file a complaint at the administrators for posting those offensive words in public?

    If not, why can’t some frat* print up a bunch of “words you should never say” and spread them all over?

    *I’m using stereotypical images of frat-boy pranksters, you’ll notice

  13. Would say you this…? “We/I just need to work the kinks out.” If you knew that… “this sentiment is rooted in racism – kinky hair is beautiful. Natural hair is powerful. Hair is political and so is “the pesonal.””

    On top of being ludicrously hypersensitive, do they have to be ludicrously ignorant as well? That’s not the origin of the phrase. You work the kinks out of a kinked-up rope or cable.

    1. do they have to be ludicrously ignorant as well?

      How DARE you deny them the joy of victimhood! The bliss of ignorance clearly isn’t enough.

    2. It’s also discriminatory towards people into kinky sex. Where’s Warty with the protest banners?

    3. I recall almost 40 years ago in shop class being warned that the term “jigsaw” might be considered offensive. That term has survived, I suspect because the slur that it was erroneously believed to derive from has itself faded into obscurity.

      Before I read to the end of the line you quote, I was expecting to see that “kink” was offensive because it might be considered disparaging to persons with non-heteronormative sexual proclivities (they can use the word, but you can’t…). I underestimated the stoopid.

      1. “jigsaw” might be considered offensive.


        Because of “jigaboo?” If so, where does the saw part fit in?

        1. Exactly. And I think there was a whole legend about how it had been named for slaves having used it.

          Googling around, it appears that “jigaboo” only entered the language as a slur in the early 20th Century — both it and the much older “jigsaw” probably derived from the word “jig” as in the dance… The former because of minstrel entertainment, and the latter because someone thought the reciprocal motion of the saw looked like it was dancing a jig.

      2. Ya – I was expecting the kinky sex as well.

        I did not know that jig-saw was ever under attack.

        Picnic was ‘verba non grata’ for a short time. Some convoluted nonsense about watching civil war battles from a hill top while eating lunch. And watching them kill black people. Seriously – the story was actually too stupid for the left to keep alive. Although every non and then you will find someone informing teachers/scout leaders that the word has a racist history.

    4. I’m fascinated by the idea that “work the kinks out” is rooted in racism.

      1) If I have an actual kinked hose or rope, am I allowed to flake it, or is it racist? Can I flake it if I find a euphamism for kink?

      2) As it happens, I aesthetically like natural hairstyles, but I lose there too, because as a person of privilege, it is racist for me to appreciate traditional minority culture.

      1. No to 1), because it would offend persons of dandruff.

  14. Story time!

    Many, many moons ago…

    A friend and I were having a political chat, and one of her friends kept poking his head around her to interject smart comments. I found this mildly annoying. It culminated with him leaning around to comment, “Your mother,” at which point I beaned him inna face. Just so happened my mother had died two weeks before.

    We hugged it out in a manly fashion a few days later with appropriate apologies all around. I acknowledged my action was irrational, and he considered he might have behaved similarly – because MOM, y’know.

    No one reported anyone to campus authorities for Crimes of Butthurt. No one protested. “My feeelings!” were not weaponized and deployed at DefCon3.

    Christ, can we no longer even squabble amongst ourselves without demanding it be properly regulated?

    Incidentally, all of you people out there even now typing “your mother!!” in the response box…

    1. But….

      ….My family died in a Squabble.

      You didn’t have to go there, man. (breaks down sobbing)

      1. You called me “man”. You are a tool of the patriarchy!

    2. Doing adult things like resolving your own personal disagreements with others is patriarchal. And triggering. And oppressive.

  15. Fuck me. That old musical comes to mind – Stop The World, I Want To Get Off.

    1. Where is Anthony Newley in our hour of need?

  16. People of privilege consume, appropriate, and reject the culture of minority communities at their convenience when it’s “trendy.””


    1. Minority communities, of course, never consume, appropriate, and/or reject the culture of other groups. They merely respectfully recite the traditional chants and hymns of their people.

  17. I suppose using “crazy” in the context of “crazy bitch” is extra offensive because it is also sexist, or something.

    1. I suppose “batshit crazy” is double-offensive to moonbats.

  18. This is the gayest, most retarded program I’ve ever heard of. It’s raping mu civil liberties to the point where I want to die. Crazy doesn’t begin to cover it…it’s INSANE!

    Your government, spending your money to infringe upon your right to free speech.


  19. What’s wrong with these kidz that they don’t rebel against this shit?

    When they tried similar bullshit on us, our assumption was that they were attempting to limit us and our first reaction was ALWAYS to rebell.

    These kids are fucking pussies!

    1. Cuz this is what the rebels want and kids have been taught to be tolerated by those rebels.

      Also acting exactly like your parents isn’t all that rebellious.

  20. Wait, we can’t say “kink” now?


  21. This just might trump Ohio University’s “culture, not a costume” campaign. Butt hurt SJWs have become my new favorite means of entertainment. It’s like a game: the mental gymnastics required to understand their logic is nothing short of athletic.

  22. Why do I doubt that, say, “ratfucking teabagging extremist right winger” is not on the list of offensive words?

  23. But I can still say, “Go kill yourself,” right?


    1. Triggering!

  24. Would you say this…? “Can you teach me how to twerk?” If you knew that… people would realize what a moron you are? Do people really ask to be taught how to twerk? If you need someone to teach you how to do that you’re too fucking stupid to be wandering around unsupervised.

  25. “Work the kinks out.” has nothing whatsoever to do with hair. Someone would have to be crazy, insane, retarded to come up with such idiocy.

    1. Of course. Everyone knows it’s “get the Kinks out”, as in the musicians.

      But seriously, as nuts as that one is, at least someone might’ve guessed incorrectly that it had to do with kinky hair (rather than ropes or hoses). The next one, about twerks and minorities, I can’t even figure out the relationship, let alone how it’s supposed to be offensive.

  26. Can you please tell me how to get to the Susquehanna Hat Co. on Floogle St.?

  27. This one’s interesting:

    Would you say, “your [sic] not an alcoholic if you’r [sic] in college” if you knew “I spent last year in a treatment rehab center and am now working to stay sober and well”?

    Presumably the way this would come up is by someone’s confessing to being an alcoholic, and someone else saying, “Don’t run yourself down, you’re really not an alcoholic….” Which means it’s bad manners for someone to deny another hir untermensch status. No, I really am an alcoholic, dammit!

    1. your [sic] not an alcoholic if you’r [sic] in college


  28. More and more people seem to be getting closer and closer to living by a twist on an old adage:

    “Sticks and stones may break my bones,
    But words will utterly destroy me.”

  29. What the hell does calling something “ratchet” mean, and what does it have to do with being poor?

  30. The one that I immediately noticed is “work the kinks out”. This is archaic nautical terminology. It is about rope. traditional rope came in coils that had to be unspooled in a particular way to avoid massive kinks and twisting. “working the kinks out” is something you often have to do to make a rope usable. There are a ton of traditional nautical sayings that are tremendously racist, but this is not one of those. Perhaps someone who does not understand the meanings or origins of the phrase might think that it has something to do with race, but that is just ignorance. Being offended by a phrase because you do not understand it is kind of sad.

  31. I don’t find that a word “crazy” unacceptable. Nevertheless, there are so many other words that could hurt other’s feelings. Bullying is a huge problem. How can a student concentrate on writing his dissertation when his feelings are hurt and he can barely put together a few words? Of course, there is an option to buy dissertation online, but is this a real solution? Students have to think of education instead of bullying. We have to somehow fight student’s cruelty towards each other.

  32. As an older person in the workforce, I’m so glad colleges across the nation are doing their best to graduate student unable to compete with me for scarce jobs.

  33. Offensive words hurt so much every single time someone uses it. Personality I experienced such situation when asked my groupmate to help with assignment. She said I am full and lazy to cope with that but I simple need some help.

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