A number of professors at Washington State University have made it clear to their students that if they use offensive wording in class, it could result in their failure on an assignment or even the semester.
Two programs at the University have sent out restrictions to their students on the usage of such language as “The Man,” “Colored People,” and “Illegals,” or “Illegal Aliens.” Some courses also banned the use of the terms “Male” and “Female.” The professors within the programs said they felt the terms are “oppressive and hateful.”
“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,” the syllabus for Selena Lester Breikss’ Women and Popular Culture course reads.
The professor added that punishments for the usage of such language could include “removal from the class without attendance or participation points, failure of the assignment, and—in extreme cases—failure for the semester.”
A second professor, Rebecca Fowler, has told students taking her “Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies” course that they will see a drop in their grades if use such terms as “illegal alien” on their assignments.
Fowler used the Associated Press style guide in determining which terms to ban for the course, saying “The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person … ‘illegal’ should describe only an action.” She added that students should instead refer to migrants as “undocumented.”
Morgan Chalfant writes for The Washington Free Beacon that students who use the banned language will receive a one-point deduction each time a term is used. Fowler added that the goal of the course is to give students an understanding of “how white privilege functions in everyday social structures and institutions.”
Fowler went on to say that the usage of the term “illegal alien” has become so commonplace that our society correlates it with all unauthorized border crossings originating from countries south of our own border despite the fact that a number of immigrants from other places in the world constitute a large portion of undocumented residents in the US.
The decision is not the first in the nation concerning the usage of certain wording in a classroom setting. The University of California and the University of Tennessee each decided to deter students from using gender-neutral pronouns when referring to transgender or queer-identifying students, writes Alexandra Sims for The Independent.