In response to a gender-studies professor who wanted to punish her students for referring to men and women as “male” and “female,” Washington State University has announced that it will not allow faculty to ban potentially “offensive” words or punish students for using them.
In a section of the syllabus for her “Women & Popular Culture” course, Professor Selena Lester Breikss warned that the “use of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist or generally offensive language in class or submission of such material will not be tolerated” — and clarified that “this includes [phrases such as] ‘The Man’” and “referring to women/men as females or males.”
“If I see it or hear it, I will correct it in class since it can be a learning moment for many students,” she said in the syllabus.
“Repeated use of oppressive and hateful language will be handled accordingly — including but not limited to removal from the class without attendance or participation points, failure of the assignment, and — in extreme cases — failure for the semester,” she continued.
#share#Controversy over the policy ensued, prompting WSU to release a statement on Monday reaffirming its commitment to free speech and announcing that “no student will have points docked merely as a result of using terms that may be deemed offensive to some.”
“Blanket restriction of the use of certain terms is not consistent with the values upon which this university is founded,” it continued.
#related#The statement did assure, however, that this announcement did not mean that the school was not committed to “safety” in the classroom:
“Free speech and a constructive climate for learning are not incompatible. We aim to cultivate diversity of expression while protecting individual rights and safety.”
Personally, I’m not sure how the school could claim this. After all, it’s obvious that having to live with the possibility of being exposed to a word like “male” or “female” would definitely make any classroom a very dangerous place.