Colorado State: Most of guide that says to ‘avoid’ using ‘America’, ‘American’ is ‘common sense’

  • The Colorado State University system released a statement regarding its Inclusivity Language Guide, first reported by Campus Reform, that listed “America” and “American” as words to avoid.
  • CSU states that the document is a voluntary resource and not an official policy, while also saying that many of the suggestions in the guide are “common sense.”

Colorado State’s chancellor said that a guide advising students not to use more than 100 terms, such as “American” and “cake walk,” is mostly “common sense” in a formal statement Thursday.

CSU system Chancellor Tony Frank made the statement regarding its Inclusivity Language Guide, following a Campus Reformreport.

“Most of the suggestions in it are common sense"   

CSU's online guide, compiled by the school’s Inclusive Communications Task Force, lists certain words and phrases to “avoid” while providing replacements in an effort to help “communicators practice inclusive language and [help] everyone on [the school’s] campus feel welcomed, respected, and valued.”

[RELATED: Colorado State: 'Avoid' using 'Americans,' 'America']

“Statements being made on social media and in online publications are untrue and are based on an outdated document,” Frank said Thursday. “The CSU System, Colorado State University, and all of the CSU campuses do not place prohibitions on language. We consider free speech and the First Amendment the foundations of a great American public university.”

The document reads that it was last updated on October 30, 2018.

“The facts are that an informal group of CSU staff people who work with students created an internal guide on inclusive language because other staff members asked for it – it was designed as a free resource for people who were asking for help to avoid saying something unintentionally that might needlessly offend someone with whom they were working,” the Colorado State chancellor said. “Most of the suggestions in it are common sense and have been in common use for decades.”

Besides “America” and “American”, the guide also listed words such as “handicap parking,” “male,” “female,” “straight,” “war,” “cake walk,” “eenie meenie miney moe,” “Eskimo,” “freshman,” “hip hip hooray!”, “hold down the fort,” “starving,” and “policeman,” with separate explanations for why each term is not inclusive.

“[The guide] is NOT official policy or required to be read or followed by anyone; in fact, the guide itself says that in bold type at the top of the list,” the statement continued, which Campus Reform also noted in previous coverage. “It’s just a resource available to people who want to voluntarily seek it out because they are interested in student access and success and helping people who come to CSU from all over the state, nation, and world feel welcome.”

Frank added in the statement that the language guide does not contain the terms “America” or “American.” According to the chancellor, the CSU staff originally considered adding these terms and suggesting “U.S. citizen” to replace them to avoid excluding those from other geographical parts of the Americas.

[RELATED: Colorado State: 'avoid gendered emojis']

“They decided against this on their own and deleted that from the draft before it was ever finalized or circulated to campus,” the statement read. “Why that information is being circulated now as current or factual is unclear.”

At the time Campus Reform published its Thursday article, CSU’s Women and Gender Collaborative website directly linked to the document that included both “America” and “American,” with suggested alternative phrases. The guide since seems to have been removed.

"The version that Campus Reform, the Collegian, and one of our employees have shared online was a preliminary draft that was still under construction/revision back in October when the student newspaper posted it, and the language in question was removed before the document was finalized and released in January by the people who wrote it," CSU spokesman Mike Hooker told Campus Reform Friday. 

"Attached is the final version of this guide which was created as a resource for members of the CSU staff who had specifically requested this guidance. The old (October) link from the Collegian which you have in your original story from Wednesday was the preliminary draft that was still under discussion among internal members of the involved group.  The preliminary draft was also posted by a CSU employee for discussion purposes back in the fall (not the final attached here that the people working on it eventually agreed on in January) and it never got taken down," Hooker added.

Frank emphasized that CSU is a proponent of the First Amendment and “will defend someone’s right to try and avoid offending someone inadvertently so long as they don’t force it on others.”

Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn reacted to CSU’s Inclusive Language Guide on Twitter.

“Wow!” he tweeted. “[Colorado State’s] Inclusive Comms Task Force decided that America is a word so ‘offensive’ it should not be spoken. I'm #ProudtobeanAmerican. All Americans from all walks of life should be able to say they're proud of their country.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ethanycai



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Ethan Cai
Ethan Cai | New Hampshire Campus Correspondent

Ethan Cai is a Campus Reform Intern and New Hampshire Campus Correspondent, reporting on liberal bias and abuse. He is a Freshman at Dartmouth College studying Quantitative Government Analysis with a minor in Economics.

20 Articles by Ethan Cai