EXPOSED: Stanford’s ‘Elimination of Harmful Language’ initiative

It’s even more unhinged than you’d expect.

Stanford University’s “Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative” just got exposed and it’s even worse than it sounds. The campus initiative is the product of 18 months of collaboration and outlines “offensive” terms not to be used by campus bureaucrats. Its stated goal is to “eliminate many forms of harmful language, including racist, violent, and biased language in Stanford websites and code.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial board reported on the existence of the initiative this week, leading the university to hide it behind a paywall—but not before the Journal made it available publicly. Thank goodness they did, because the details of this Orwellian language code are so absurd they beggar belief.

The initiative documents the following terms, among others, as “ableist,” aka insulting to people with disabilities: “lame,” “blind study,” “insane,” and “walk-in hours.” Meanwhile, it says the following words are problematic due to “cultural appropriation”: “bury the hatchet,” “spirit animal,” and “on the warpath.”

The gender-based section is perhaps even more absurd. Stanford bureacrats have labeled all these terms, and more, as inherently sexist and offensive: “ballsy,” “freshman,” “guys,” “ladies,” “mailman,” and “landlord.”

Of course, a campus social justice initiative wouldn’t be complete without some needlessly divisive racial greivances. It labels the terms “black sheep,” “grandfather,” “uppity,” and “white paper” as all inherently, subconsciously racist.

The initiative even labels the term “American” offensive, because it supposedly “insinuat[es] that the US is the most important country in the Americas.” (Which, um… it is.)

It’s funny because even woke terms like “trigger warning” and “people of color” are now highlighted as problematic. Even progressives can’t keep up with their own ever-evolving language policing!

There are so many problems with this initiative that it’s hard to know where to begin.

For one, while the initiative does highlight a few terms, like “retarded” or “gip,” that probably should be avoided due to their actually offensive nature, most of its connections and complaints are absurd stretches. It often harkens back to obscure origins of terms that have absolutely no bearing on or relation to how they’re commonly used today. No real person anywhere outside of a diversity department has ever been harmed by the general use of “mailman” or the term “black sheep.”

And in its pathetic efforts to discover discrimination where none exists, this initiative reveals that it’s a symptom of a much bigger problem. University administrations have exploded exponentially in recent decades, far outstripping student body growth and contributing to the outrageous increase in tuition prices.

When you have far more administrators than are actually needed, they end up devoting time—can you believe this took 18 months to create?—to obvious unproductive, or even counterproductive, ends like this divisive nonsense.

So, too, this initiative is but one example of many that reveal the infantilization of modern college students that’s leaving them ill-equiped for the real world. After all, college is supposed to prepare you for the workforce—and graduates certainly won’t be shielded from these common terms in the real world.

It’s also offensive in its own right. This initiative suggests that racial minorities, women, LGBT people, etc. are so mentally weak that they can be negatively affected by the most minor of verbal ticks and turns of phrase. It should go without saying that this is untrue. It’s also hardly “progressive” or “woke” to suggest that minorities are inherently fragile and need to be protected from common words.

The entire thing seems like something out of the Babylon Bee. It’s a sad state of affairs indeed when the policies of our supposedly elite institutions of higher learning are nearly indistinguishable from parody.

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Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo is a libertarian-conservative journalist and co-founder of Based Politics. His work has been cited by top lawmakers such as Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Pat Toomey, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, Congressman Thomas Massie, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, as well as by prominent media personalities such as Jordan Peterson, Sean Hannity, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Mark Levin. Brad has also testified before the US Senate, appeared on Fox News and Fox Business, and written for publications such as USA Today, National Review, Newsweek, and the Daily Beast. He hosts the Breaking Boundaries podcast and has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.