Wash. State University Smacks Down Faculty Attempt To Ban 'Offensive' Speech - Like 'Male,' 'Female'

Brittany M. Hughes | September 2, 2015
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Photo by Washington State Athletics

(Photo credit: Washington State Athletics)

It turns out students at Washington State University may continue using horribly offensive words like “male” and “female” at their chosen institute of higher learning, thanks to school officials who vowed Wednesday to uphold their First Amendment rights of free speech and expression.

According to The College Fix, the university just smacked down an attempt by some faculty members threatening to fail students who use words and phrases deemed “offensive” in class, such as “illegal alien,” “male” or “female.”

For example, the syllabus of one Professor Selena Lester Breikss for her “Women and Popular Culture” class dictated:

Gross generalizations, stereotypes, and derogatory/oppressive language are not acceptable. Use of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist, or generally offensive language in class or submission of such material will not be tolerated. (This includes “The Man,” “Colored People,” “Illegals/Illegal Aliens,” “Tranny” and so on - or 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. 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.



In response to a national outcry over the new anti-speech policies, WSU President Daniel Bernardo issued a statement Wednesday promising to uphold students’ First Amendment rights of free speech and expression, and vowing to revise any individual class policies that restrict this basic principle:

Washington State University deeply values the tenets of freedom of expression for every member of our community, including all students, faculty and staff. Those First Amendment rights are reinforced in our policies, procedures and practices. Open dialogue, vigorous debate and the free exchange of ideas, as well as the language used to convey these ideas, are at the core of who we are as a higher education institution.

Over the weekend, we became aware that some faculty members, in the interest of fostering a constructive climate for discussion, included language in class syllabi that has been interpreted as abridging students’ free speech rights. We are working with these faculty members to clarify, and in some cases modify, course policies to ensure that students’ free speech rights are recognized and protected. 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.

Free speech and a constructive climate for learning are not incompatible. We aim to cultivate diversity of expression while protecting individual rights and safety.

To this end, we are asking all faculty members to take a moment to review their course policies to ensure that students’ right to freedom of expression is protected along with a safe and productive learning environment.


In other news, while WSU students may be celebrating their recovered ability to use words, duct tape sales in Washington have plummeted.

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