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Stanford backpedals on newspeak advisory after massive backlash

'We clearly missed the mark'

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December 28, 2022


07:59 AM

Stanford backpedals on newspeak advisory after massive backlash

Stanford University tried walking back the list of approved semantics it published last week to replace “harmful language” like the term “committed suicide,” which it said was “ableist”. 

Other terms no longer approved by Stanford include “rape victim”. Instead, one should say a “person who has experienced rape” or a “person who has been impacted by rape.” This is to avoid defining people “by just one of their experiences.” 

People are to avoid saying “basket case,” “blind study” and “blind review.” 

The university also cautions against using the word “Hispanic”. Instead, one should say “Latinx,” a racist term considered offensive by most Hispanics.   

Any negative use of the word “black” (e.g., “blackbox,” “blacklist”) is frowned upon, as are the words “master,” “slave labor” and “red team” (because red might be offensive to “Indigenous peoples”). Conversely, any positive use of the word “white” should be avoided.   

While the list is lengthy, what grabbed the most attention was the university’s cancellation of the word “American”. 

“This term often refers to people from the United States only, thereby insinuating that the US is the most important country in the Americas (which is actually made up of 42 countries),” says Stanford, which recommends saying “U.S. citizen” instead. 

The Washington Free Beacon points out that just 48 hours following the backlash, Stanford hid the list behind a login page so that it is no longer publicly accessible. 

On Tuesday, Stanford Chief Information Officer Steve Gallagher published an apologetic letter in which he admitted “we clearly missed the mark” when advising against the use of “American”. 

“To be very clear, not only is the use of the term ‘American’ not banned at Stanford, it is absolutely welcomed,” said Gallagher. “The intent of this particular entry on the EHLI website was to provide perspective on how the term may be imprecise in some specific uses, and to show that in some cases the alternate term ‘US citizen’ may be more precise and appropriate.” 

Gallagher also tried to water down the general purpose of the list, though there were no surprising revelations. 

“First and importantly, the website does not represent university policy. It also does not represent mandates or requirements. The website was created by, and intended for discussion within, the IT community at Stanford. It provides ‘suggested alternatives’ for various terms, and reasons why those terms could be problematic in certain uses. Its aspiration, and the reason for its development, is to support an inclusive community.” 

Notably, however, the university has not taken down the list completely.

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