Brandeis quietly removes 'Oppressive Language' guide from website after backlash

After Campus Reform revealed that Brandies University asked students to avoid common terms like 'ladies and gentlemen,' the school has now removed the list from its website.

Notable terms that were discouraged included: 'Homeless person,' 'Mentally ill,' and 'African-American.'

After Campus Reform revealed that Brandies University in Massachusetts had published an “Oppressive Language List,” asking students to avoid common terms like “ladies and gentlemen,” the school has now removed the content from its website.

The list, which included phrases and terms like “policeman,” “picnic,” “people of color,” “rule of thumb,” was previously posted by the university’s Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center (PARC).

The now-defunct list was overseen by students involved with the center, according to the archive of the web page.

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“Suggestions are brought forth by students who have been impacted by violence and students who have sought out advanced training for intervening in potentially violent situations,” the website read. 

“As a community, we can strive to remove language that may hurt those who have experienced violence from our everyday use,” it added.

The list was previously titled, “Oppressive Language List,” but was revised in August 2021 after the group decided “to center the suggested alternatives rather than the words and phrases that may cause harm.”

Following Campus Reform’s initial reporting on the list, a disclaimer was added to clarify that the terminology that the web page recommends “is not a university expectation, requirement or reflection of policy.”

The suggestions were broken into various categories, including: “Violent Language,” “Identity-Based Language,” “Language That Doesn’t Say What We Mean,” “Culturally Appropriative Language,” and “Person-First & Identity-First.”

Discouraged phrases in the Violent Language category featured: “Take a stab at it,” “Trigger warning,” and “Beating a dead horse.” 

The Identity-Based Language category advised against the use of “African-American,” “Long time no see,” and “Handicapped space.” 

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Other notable examples of language from the list included “Spirit animal,” “Homeless person, “Facebook stalking (in reference to lurking someone’s social media),” “Powwow,” and “Mentally ill.”

Campus Reform revealed in June 2021 that in spite of the PARC list, Brandeis had been incorporating many of the phrases and terms that the group recommended avoiding. For instance, the words “freshman” and “picnic” appeared in many different articles, blogs, and departments when placed in the search bar of the official Brandeis website.

The Brandeis University Teacher Education Program Handbook also used the term “rule of thumb,” which was listed under PARC’s “Violent Language” category.

Since the first release of the list, PARC had replaced new words and phrases on the list, as reported by the Boston Herald

All relevant parties have been contacted for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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