The University of New Hampshire's outrageous Bias-Free Language Guide seems to have struck a nerve. The guide, which purports to help UNH students and faculty purge their vocabulary of dozens of offensive words and phrases—really hateful stuff, like "obese" and "midgets" and "elders"—was removed by the university's president late last week after all corners of the internet expressed universal outrage at such an over-the-top display of political correctness.
The Bias-Free Language Guide is indeed nauseating. But, as I argue in a recent column for The Daily Beast, people should be more outraged about the countless examples of overt censorship on American (sorry, I meant, North American—please don't report me to the language police) college campuses:
It's good that these public universities aren't explicitly requiring the use of inoffensive language, because that would be both illegal and impossible. It would violate the First Amendment rights of students and faculty while failing to protect everyone's delicate ears from words that hurt them. Everything is offensive to someone, and some things that are offensive to some people aren't offensive to others. One man's "fat" is another man's "person of size." The great war on hurt-feelings at American university campuses is unwinnable, and the causalities are significant.
In any case, universities should be careful not to confuse students about their right to speak their minds. They should also take better care to ensure that friendly speech reminders don't become unfriendly speech mandates over time. Censorship-creep is all too real a phenomenon at universities all over the country.
In just the last month, I have covered cases where students were formally disciplined for engaging in political activism, calling another student a "psycho,"and making idiotic statements on Facebook. Each of these students should have enjoyed a right to free speech, and yet each met with suspension or expulsion for speaking out of line. That's just crazy.
Read the full article here.