When Washington State University (WSU) opened its doors last week for the fall term, some students were greeted with a whole new level of political correctness. Several WSU faculty informed students that first amendment rights could be checked at the door when they arrived at class – for instance, they risked receiving a failing grade for using “offensive” language that includes terms like “male” and “female” or “illegal immigrant.”
We are not making this up. Via the Washington Times,
“According to the syllabus for Selena Lester Breikss’ “Women & Popular Culture” class, ‘Gross generalizations, stereotypes, and derogatory/oppressive language are not acceptable,’ Campus Reformfirst reported.”
The syllabus in question goes on to state, “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.”
Professor Breikss isn’t the only WSU faculty member imposing an extreme (and unconstitutional) level of political correctness on her students. Professor Rebecca Fowler, who teaches “Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies,” informed students taking her course that they would be punished of using the term “illegal alien” in their assigned writing. The Washington Times,
“According to her syllabus, students will lose one point every time they use the words ‘illegal alien’ or ‘illegal’” rather than the preferred terms of ‘undocumented migrants/immigrants/persons,’ Campus Reform reported. Fowler said students will ‘come to recognize how white privilege functions in everyday social structures and institutions.’”
Finally, WSU students taking Professor John Streamas’ “Introduction to Multicultural Literature” class have been told to “[r]eflect your grasp of history and social relations by respecting shy and quiet classmates, and by deferring to the experiences of people of color.” According to Campus Reform, at least two other WSU professors have required their students to “acknowledge that institutionalized forms of racial oppression exist.”
Ladies and gentlemen, the oppressive state of higher education in our nation today – right over there in Pullman.
UPDATE: WSU has walked back attacks on free speech. WSU President Daniel Bernardo issued the following statement.
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.