It’s relatively rare that I see something so edifying out of academia on the question of free speech, so I want to make sure we relish this great update to the story of the University of New Hampshire “Bias-Free Language Guide.”
Earlier this week, Campus Reform reported on the “language guide” and its objections to all things problematic, including the word, “American,” which is quite obviously not inclusive enough of all the Americas or something. The guide recommends “U.S. citizen” or “resident of the United States” instead. Jazz wrote at the time:
I can’t even remember when it was that the word “American” began to become problematic for the Left, but it clearly grinds the gears of some of them. To be clear, they are all quick with the denials, saying, oh we have nothing against being American! It’s just not fair to the indigenous tribes or the rest of the nations. Yes… yes… of course. We wouldn’t suspect for even a moment that you’re less than proud of your country and resent the word American because it summons up images of Reagan riding a velociraptor waving Old Glory and firing a rifle. Perish the thought.
Even in the politically correct universe this seems like a weak argument. We aren’t “The United States” the last time I checked. We’re “The United States of America.” In fact, if you think about it, the “United States” part is actually more of a qualifier with “America” being the object in the phrase. As to the other countries, do you really think they’re offended? Nobody made Canada choose that name. They could have been “Northern America” if they were all fired up about it. And Mexico inherited their name long before we started hanging signs on things.
The Washington Post wrote up the Campus Reform story, choosing to emphasize that Campus Reform hadn’t informed its readers that the guide was not official university policy, but to be fair, the guide was published on an official University website. The impression that it might be policy was strong enough that UNH President Mark Huddleston felt the need to clarify it was not policy. In the future, his press release states, UNH will have a clearer policy about which UNH web sites represent school policy and which represent student opinion or student organization policy.
“While individuals on our campus have every right to express themselves, I want to make it absolutely clear that the views expressed in this guide are NOT the policy of the University of New Hampshire. I am troubled by many things in the language guide, especially the suggestion that the use of the term ‘American’ is misplaced or offensive. The only UNH policy on speech is that it is free and unfettered on our campuses. It is ironic that what was probably a well-meaning effort to be ‘sensitive’ proves offensive to many people, myself included.”
— UNH President Mark W. Huddleston
Good job, President Huddleston.