This is 'another stake in the heart of free speech,' UMich conservatives say

The University of Michigan IT department’s “Words Matter Task Force” published a list of words that “are, or can be construed to be, racist, sexist, or non-inclusive.”

Among these words and phrases are “man,” “crazy,” “picnic,” “dummy,” “grandfathered in,” and “long time, no see.”

The University of Michigan Information and Technology Services’ “Words Matter Task Force” published a list of words that “are, or can be construed to be, racist, sexist, or non-inclusive.” 

Among these words and phrases are “man,” “crazy,” “dummy,” “grandfathered in,” and “long time, no see.”

University of Michigan Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Ravi Pendse explained in a July letter that “the jargon we use in information technology has implications for the way we think, including the way we think about each other.” 

Accordingly, the department assembled a “Words Matter Task Force” to “recommend alternative terms where possible or terms to eliminate if not needed.”

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The list — which is “not exhaustive and will continue to grow” — contains more than two dozen words and phrases, as well as alternative terms. Instead of using the word “man” or “men,” the document recommends using “people,” “person,” or “a wholly different word.” 

For example, “man-hours” could become “person-hours.”

Likewise, the term “black-and-white thinking” can be substituted with “binary thinking.”

The term “preferred pronouns” should be replaced with, simply, “pronouns.”

The word “native” could be exchanged for “built-in” or “innate.”

Instead of using the word “picnic,” affiliates could use the word “gathering.”

A “sanity check” could instead be a “quick check,” “confidence check,” or “coherence check.”

The term “grandfathered in” could be substituted with “legacy status,” exempted,” or “excused.”

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Information and Technology Services created a Slack channel named “#its-words-matter,” to “facilitate discussion around inclusive language in ITS nomenclature and vendor documentation, ask questions, and more.”

The Words Matter Task Force also created an email template to “proactively inform and prepare vendors of other terms they may hear ITS staffers use during meetings, as well as to explain the business case for why the changes were made.”

University of Michigan Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs Rick Fitzgerald told Campus Reform that “this ongoing work around language is part of the ITS effort to create a workplace that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.”


“As a unit that is part of a world-class educational institution, we believe it’s important to make sure all members of the ITS team understand the impact of language,” he added. “This effort remains a work in progress, but it’s important to remember that this is an educational effort about language that will allow the ITS team to better serve the entire university community.” 


The University of Michigan College Republicans told Campus Reform that “while unenforced recommendations are not catastrophic, it signals yet another stake in the heart of free speech.”

“Free speech is what makes this country one of the best in the world, free from the oppressive regimes in other nations that punish citizens for disliked speech,” said the group. “We are not convinced that many of these recommendations will end or mitigate racism, sexism, or anything else — especially phasing out words like ‘picnic’ or ‘straw-man.’ We hope that this list does not proceed beyond its current form.”

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Michigan for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft