CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The president of the University of New Hampshire said Wednesday he is troubled and offended by many parts of a "bias-free language guide" posted on the school's website, particularly a suggestion that using the word "American" is problematic because it fails to recognize South America.
The guide, developed by students and staff in 2013, attracted little attention until this week, when it was featured the conservative news site Campus Reform. Asked about it on Wednesday, university President Mark Huddleston said the guide is not campus policy.
"While individuals on our campus have every right to express themselves, I want to make it absolutely clear that the views expressed in this guide are NOT the policy of the University of New Hampshire. I am troubled by many things in the language guide, especially the suggestion that the use of the term 'American' is misplaced or offensive," he said. "The only UNH policy on speech is that it is free and unfettered on our campuses. It is ironic that what was probably a well-meaning effort to be 'sensitive' proves offensive to many people, myself included."
The guide appears as a resource on a UNH website detailing the university's efforts to create an inclusive, diverse and equitable community. It says is meant to serve as a "starting point" to encourage critical thinking about terms commonly used in conversation and writing.
One section warns against the terms "older people, elders, seniors, senior citizens." It suggests "people of advanced age" as preferable, though it notes that some have "reclaimed" the term "old people." Other preferred terms include "person of material wealth" instead of rich, "person who lacks advantages that others have" instead of poor and "people of size" to replace the word overweight.
In another suggestion unlikely to gain traction in New England, the guide suggests "y'all" as a better option than "guys" when referring to a group of people.
State Sen. Jeb Bradley, a Republican from Wolfeboro, said he was outraged by the guide and would remember it when lawmakers next consider how much money to provide to the university.
"Implying the word 'American' is not appropriate to use on campus is un-American to say the least," he said. "Will UNH next propose to change our Live Free or Die motto to Live Free but Upset No-One?"
It's unclear when Huddleston became aware of the guide. A university spokeswoman said it was created by a "small group of community members," though a report submitted by the President's Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities last year describes it as a "4-commission effort." The college also has a commission on women, people of color and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. The leaders of the four groups did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.