University Hands Out ‘Free Speech Guide’ for ‘Safe and Inclusive Environment’

AP Photo/Valentina Petrova
AP Photo/Valentina Petrova
Harrisonburg, Virginia

Campus leaders at James Madison University in Virginia have handed out a seven-page “free speech guide” to freshmen as part of their university orientation, which included a list of 35 things no student should ever say.

In a copy of the book obtained by The College Fix, it states that phrases such as “some of my best friends are,” “you speak the language very well,” and “I treat all people the same,” are “dumb but well intentioned” phrases that students should always try to avoid.

It argues that these phrases only “widen the diversity gap” at the university and inhibit the building of a “safe and inclusive environment” where every student always feels comfortable.

Here is a full list of the 35 phrases:

1. “Some of my best friends are …”
2. “I know exactly how you feel.”
3. “I don’t think of you as …”
4. “The same thing happens to me too.”
5. “It was only a joke! Don’t take things so seriously.”
6. What do ‘your’ people think.”
7. “What are you?” or “Where are you really from?”
8. “I don’t see color” or “I’m color blind.”
9. “You are so articulate.”
10. “It is so much better than it used to be. Just be patient.”
11. “You speak the language very well.”
12. Asking black people about their hair or hygiene.
13. Saying to LBGTQ people “what you do in the privacy of your own bedroom is your business.”
14. “Yes, but you are a ‘good’ one.”
15. “You have such a pretty face.”
16. “I never owned slaves.”
17. “If you are going to live in this country, learn to speak the language!”
18. “She/he is a good person. She/he didn’t mean anything by it.”
19. “When I’ve said the same thing to other people like you, they don’t mind.”
20. Calling women “girls, honey, sweetie pie” or other familiar terms.
21. When people of color say, “It is not the same thing.”
22. When people of faith say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
23. When white men say, “We are the ones being discriminated against now!”
24. Referring to older people as “cute.”
25. Asking a transgender person, “What are you really? A man or a woman?”
26. Referring to the significant other, partner, or spouse of a same gender couple as their “friend.”
27. “Why do ‘they’ (fill in the blank) always have to sit together? They are always sticking together.”
28. “People just need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps.”
29. People with disabilities are “courageous.”
30. “That’s so gay/queer. That’s so retarded.”
31. “I don’t see difference. We are all part of the same race, the human race.”
32. I don’t care if you are pink, purple or orange, I treat all people the same.”
33. Asking a transgender person, “Have you had the operation.”
34. Saying to a Jewish person, “You are so lucky to have ‘your’ Christmas spread over a week!”
35. “Here’s another book on political correctness.”

The guide gives a detailed explanation as to why each phrase is problematic, explaining the “intent” of each statement, before adding its negative “impact.”

For example, the book states the phrase, “You speak the language very well,” is intended as a “compliment to the person who is assumed to be an English language learner,” but in reality it is a “form of racial profiling disguised as a compliment,” implying that a person “doesn’t look or sound American and also asserts there is a proper way to speak English and that all native English speakers are proficient.”

Talking to The College Fix, the university’s head of communications Bill Wyatt claimed that it was “just an exercise, prior to orientation, to get our volunteers to understand how language affects others.”

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