UNH Language Cops Are Kind of Old News

The University Near Here has its "Bias-Free Language Guide" (BFLG) online, visible to the Whole Wide World, and it has been the subject of much comment and ridicule over the past day or two. (Examples: Jonathan Chait at New York magazine; the (hilarious) "Everything's A Problem" tumblr; Campus Reform; the Daily Caller; the perceptive Steve MacDonald at Granite Grok; Twitchy.)

[Note: UNH President Huddleston is, according to the Portland Press Herald, "troubled and offended" by the BFLG. Can you hear the sound of our local Social Justice Warriors being thrown under the bus? So who knows how long it's going to hang around on our website? Better check it out while you can.]

It's always fun to have one's employer mercilessly mocked, but I'm not sure anyone's taken the trouble to point out: this is not new. The Internet Archive Wayback Machine has versions of the same URL going back to September 2013. And almost all of the stuff that people are (laughing|shaking their heads) at today has been there since then.

Example: The item that many find most amusing is the guide's deeming the use of "American" to refer to United States citizenry to be "Problematic". But that's been in there right along, as near as I can tell. Yes, it's stupid. But UNH is consistently stupid. (Or, I guess I should say: consistently cognitively disabled.)

Not to say there haven't been changes. The 2013 section titled "SEXUAL ORIENTATION" has been broadened; it's now "SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY", wouldn't want to leave that out; there are a couple of new terms in that section's glossary: "gender expression" and "gender identity". (Not the same thing, buddy, and don't you forget it.)

Some changes are mysterious: in 2013, "preferred" ways to address a group of humans were "Folks, Peeps, People, You All, Y’all". All acceptable ways to avoid the dread "Problematic/Outdated" term "Guys".

But here we are in 2015, and "Peeps" has vanished from the "preferred" list. But neither has it appeared in the "problematic" list. It has been consigned to the Memory Hole, no doubt by some editor who had a bad reaction to a marshmallow peep over Easter.

There are some obvious absurdities, probably inevitable when a document is group-edited by peeps who score high on feeling/thinking ratio. For example: if you refer to someone with no disabilities as "healthy", that is considered "problematic". But this is a mere few paragraphs after claiming that following the BFLG will "create a healthy, more productive classroom culture or work environment." [emphasis added]

What is the innocent reader to think? "Healthy" is OK when you use it as a metaphor, but not to refer to objective reality?

There's more. Much more. If your sport is shooting fish in a barrel, have at it.

But to mention one last thing, the proffered justification for the BFLG is especially egregious: "Starting a Conversation about Word Choice". Presented with the usual who-could-be-against-that framing?

But "conversation" here should be taken in the progressive sense: the one where you listen to us lecture on the current enlightened dogma about matters racial, sexual, and political. After which you will adjust your expression accordingly, or risk being labeled a heretic against UNH's official "value" of "diversity".

Last Modified 2015-07-30 5:40 AM EDT