Politics & Policy

Chico State Athletic Program: Don’t Say Offensive Words Like ‘Coward’ and ‘Spaz’

College students apparently need to be educated about how to be nice.

California State University, Chico’s athletic program has launched a “We Don’t Say” initiative instructing players not to use words like “coward” or “spaz” to ensure “care and inclusivity.”

Other no-no phrases include “just kill me,” “you’re a failure,” and “like a girl,” as well as blatantly offensive words like “whore,” “n*****” and “f***.”

According to the school’s athletic department website, the campaign features a series of posters that say things like, “I don’t say coward because you can’t judge someone else by your own standards” and “I don’t say the N word because demeaning someone based on their ethnicity is unacceptable.” Some of the posters are already hanging in the school’s Strength and Conditioning Center, and more of them will go up in its administration building, Kendall Hall, in December.

First of all, let me just say that a campaign including the N-word in the same group as the word “coward” is absurd. What’s more, printing posters telling students not to say “n*****” is obviously a waste of ink, seeing as literally no one is under the impression that busting out racial slurs and “demeaning someone based on their ethnicity” is anything but “unacceptable.”

Making posters warning against the word “coward” is a bad idea, too, but for the opposite reason: Using that word is not always clearly a bad thing. In fact, it can sometimes be helpful. For example: Someone once called me a “coward” for freaking out so badly about a spider in my shower that I didn’t want to go into the bathroom. In that situation, the person calling me a “coward” was objectively correct, and their making me aware of that fact prompted me to kill the spider, take a shower, and go on with my day. Had that person simply said well, “you can’t judge someone else by your own standards,” I might have not taken a shower — which would not have been good for anyone. Calling people out on how their fears might be preventing their success can be inspiring, and so the appropriateness of doing so should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. That’s how communication works — context is a huge part of it, and campaigns like this completely take it out of the equation. That’s not making communication better; it’s making it worse.

But apparently, that’s not how some people at Chico State see it. In explaining the necessity of the campaign, Chico State Student-Athlete Advisory Committee co-president Haley Kroll said:

“Everyone is welcome here. We are a family. We want everyone to feel included, and we want our language to reflect that.”

#related#Now, obviously, that’s not a bad goal, but just what is the point of singling out specific hurtful words and phrases with a campaign like this? After all, there are plenty of ways to be mean beyond them. For example: “You’re a fat, stupid piece of garbage with bad hair!” and “You should have never been born!” and “I hope you die in a fire!” are also mean things to say, but they’re not included on this list. Why can’t there just be a campaign encouraging people to be nice? That would make at least some sense. Ideally, though, I’d say the best course of action would be no action at all: to trust that, by the time people reach college age, they already know that it’s better to be nice, know what kinds of things are nice, and know how to handle it when they hear something that’s not. 

This story was previously covered in an article on College Fix.

Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online.

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