Stanford University claims ‘freshman’ and ‘American’ are offensive terms

Despite stiff competition, Stanford University recently became a major contender in the race to become the most politically correct academic institution ever.

Stanford released the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative (EHLI) with the intent of eliminating “many forms of harmful language” on Stanford’s websites.

Ironically, the list begins with a warning that its contents may be offensive or harmful. Even more ironically, the introduction fails to take its own advice, since the initiative later recommends replacing “trigger warning” with “content note.”

The list is divided into 10 categories: Ableist, Ageism, Colonialism, Culturally Appropriative, Gender-Based, Imprecise Language, Institutionalized Racism, Person-First, Violent and Additional Considerations.

Though some of the recommendations hold water, others are as trivial as they are unreasonable.

For example, EHLI recommends replacing the medical term, “paraplegic,” with the phrase, “person with a spinal cord injury.” It claims the word paraplegic “generalizes a population of people while also implying that people with disabilities are not capable.”  

Yet its most controversial recommendation is replacing “American” with “US Citizen” since using them interchangeably insinuates the “US is the most important country in the Americas.”  

Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford alumni and professor who was born in India, expressed his disapproval of Stanford’s recommendation.  

“I remember how proud I was when I became a naturalized American citizen,” Bhattacharya tweeted. “I’m still proud to be an American.”  

The list later takes on America’s history with slavery, saying that “grandfather” should be avoided as it reflects the Southern states denial of voting rights to African-Americans. “Master,” whether an adjective or verb, should also be avoided for similar reasons.  

It also asserts that calling someone a “demanding or entitled White woman” is less offensive than the term “Karen.” 

Even adages aren’t safe from political correctness, as “killing two birds with one stone” is said to normalize violence against animals.  

Equally absurd is the claim that the term “normal person” “results in the ‘othering’ of non-White people and those who live with disabilities, mental illness or disease as not being whole or regular.”  

EHLI’s suggested replacements are “ordinary,” “common” or “conventional” person, all of which are synonyms for normal.  

The list goes on.  

  • Instead of “addict,” use “person with a substance use disorder.”  
  • Instead of “freshman,” use “frosh” or “first-year student.”  
  • Instead of “victim,” use “person who has experienced or been impact by…”  
  • Instead of “disabled person,” use “person with a disability.”  
  • Instead of “abusive relationship,” use “relationship with an abusive person.”  

Zach Greenberg, senior program officer at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, criticized the initiative for its oversimplification of the English language.  

“Many of these words are normal parts of how we speak as a society that I think regular reasonable people would not consider to be harmful or offensive,” he explained. “By deeming this long list of words to be harmful and offensive, Stanford creates a chilling effect on all of the students and faculty who may want to use these words for their research, their teacher and just their everyday discussions of issues in our society.”