Stanford deletes harmful language page published by ‘bias hunters’

Stanford University took down a webpage that sought to eliminate vocabulary common to coding and promote inclusivity on university websites.

Forbidden words included ‘she,’ ‘white paper,’ and ‘American.’

Stanford University recently rolled back its harmful language guide after receiving criticism for recommendations against “she,” “white paper,” and other “racist, violent, and biased” words. 

Several administrators collaborated to create the guide, an information technology (IT) project to eliminate vocabulary common to coding and promote inclusivity on Stanford’s websites, according to The Mercury News

The initiative’s scope of ‘racist terminology in technology’ was later expanded more broadly as ‘harmful language in technology,’” a statement from Stanford Chief Information Officer (CIO) Steve Gallagher said. “It was this expansion in scope that is at the heart of the intense recent feedback from the Stanford community and beyond.” 

Critics of the initiative included The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. 

“Call yourself an ‘American’? Please don’t. Better to say ‘U.S. citizen,’ per the bias hunters, lest you slight the rest of the Americas,” the Editorial Board wrote

Stanford “took down its Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative (EHLI) website,” according to a report in Forbes, and Gallagher said that leadership will convene to discuss next steps for the initiative. 

The Wall Street Journal pointed out that “Stanford’s IT leaders” compiled the list of forbidden words after “‘18 months of collaboration with stakeholder groups.’” 

“We can’t imagine what’s next, except that it will surely involve more make-work for more administrators, whose proliferation has driven much of the rise in college tuition and student debt,” the Editorial Board said. “For 16,937 students, Stanford lists 2,288 faculty and 15,750 administrative staff.” 

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A report from the National Association of Scholars (NAS) echoes the Editorial Board’s concerns that many administrative positions amount to “make-work” jobs. This, NAS argued, has “led colleges and universities increasingly to abandon their central mission—teaching undergraduates.” 

NAS called the phenomenon “administrative bloat,” or “the wasteful expansion of spending on administrators and staff,” who implement initiatives that are “not directly relevant to instruction.”

The Director of Communications for NAS, Chance Layton, told Campus Reform that “[t]here are a few hundred examples of how university initiatives attempt to police the language of students, faculty, and staff.”

A few notable ones,” he said, include “UT-Austin’s ‘Strategic Plan for Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity,’ which calls for the consideration of DEI contributions for promotion, raises, or hiring” and “the California Community College system (the largest in the country) rules that staff, faculty, and administrators must be evaluated on their ‘[DEI] and accessibility’ competencies.”

Campus Reform has identified other non-instructional initiatives led by DEI administrators, such as a guide advising employees at the State University of New York (SUNY) how to celebrate the holidays. 

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Colleges have also hired additional administrators to oversee these initiatives, and a recent job posting shows that the “‘Chief Diversity Officer’” at Augusta University will lead a team of other DEI administrators, Campus Reform reported

Layton told Campus Reform that administrators’ efforts produce ”no material benefit to campus communities, society, and especially not to the pursuit of truththe whole purpose of higher education.” 

”More often than not, university initiatives that attempt to restrict academic freedom or speech have the opposite effect of their intended purpose,” he continued. 

The solutions to administrative bloat and the associated increases in tuition, NAS argued in its report, include “consolidat[ing] offices and departments to reduce duplicate roles” and “cut[ting] funding to institutions that fund ideological activism in areas such as globalism, social justice, and sustainability.”

Campus Reform contacted Stanford for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.