UNH Speech Guidelines Call ‘American’ Offensive [UPDATED]


In 2015, it can be hard to make sure one is being politically correct at all times as our culture and social understanding evolve, but a “Bias-Free Language Guide” published on the University of New Hampshire’s website contains some surprising definitions of “problematic speech.”

The guidelines explain that using the word “American” is offensive because it assumes that the United States is the only country in North and South America. It states instead people should use terms such as “U.S. citizen” or “Resident of U.S.”.

The guide has roughly 50 language suggestions that cover topics including age, class, size, ability or disability status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, culture and immigrant status.

Even using the word “healthy” is inappropriate according to the guidelines, which state that the community should use the phrase “people without disabilities.” Instead of saying “handicapped,” the guide suggests using more inclusive terms such as “wheelchair user” or “person who is wheelchair mobile”.

The school’s website states that the guide is intended “to invite inclusive excellence in [the] campus community”, writes Peter Hasson for Campus Reform.

Students and staff wrote the guide in 2013, and it attracted little attention until recently.

Other words that are considered problematic include “elders,” “sexual preference,” “freshmen,” “mailman,” and “overweight.”

According to WMUR 9, many people working for the university were not aware the guide even existed, and it was written by a small group of community members — but now that university employees are, they don’t like it. The university’s president, Mark W. Huddleston, made a statement regarding the guidelines.

“While individuals on our campus have every right to express themselves, I want to make it absolutely clear that the views expressed in this guide are NOT the policy of the University of New Hampshire. I am troubled by many things in the language guide, especially the suggestion that the use of the term ‘American’ is misplaced or offensive. The only UNH policy on speech is that it is free and unfettered on our campuses. It is ironic that what was probably a well-meaning effort to be ‘sensitive’ proves offensive to many people, myself included.”

Included is a Gender Pronouns guide, which is borrowed from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It explains how to use non-binary pronouns such as spivak pronouns ze/zie/hir, where hir replaces their.

Faculty training is also available to aid in diminishing “microaggressions” were professors can learn the consequences and effects of students who feel discriminated against.


Campus Reform reports that UNH has removed the guide from their website, a move that came after the President’s statement on the controversy.