Nebraska university tells students not to say ‘crazy,’ ‘ghetto’ and other bad words

Deena Winter
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Posted: Nov 04, 2015 9:04 AM
Nebraska university tells students not to say ‘crazy,’ ‘ghetto’ and other bad words

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has launched a campaign to get students to stop using certain words and phrases including “man up,” “no homo,” “retarded,” “ghetto,” “crazy” and “rape” (out of context).

In fact, students may notice one of 300 student volunteers wearing brightly colored T-shirts with the banned words emblazoned on the back. A pink shirt informs students that saying “man up” only “reinforces masculine stereotypes that are unhealthy for everyone.”

BAD WORDS: A University of Nebraska-Lincoln campaign cautions students against using words such as ghetto, crazy and the phrase “man up.”

A purple shirt tells students saying “no homo” just “devalues love and sexual identities.”

A blue shirt says the word retarded “suggests disability and stupidity are interchangeable.”

A red shirt says the phrase “that’s so ghetto” only “misrepresents the experiences of others and negatively stereotypes minority groups.”

A green shirt informs others that saying “you’re crazy” just “minimizes human emotion and those affected by mental illness.”

And finally, orange shirts warn that saying rape out of context “ignores the reality of sexual assault.”

The campaign, launched Oct. 22, was organized by University Housing’s Multicultural and Diversity Education Committee to encourage students to “think before they speak.”

“We often hear students say things like, ‘That test raped me,’ or that something is ‘so ghetto,'” said Melissa Peters, assistant director of residence life for student leadership and diversity initiatives, in a university announcement. “The vast majority of students aren’t using these words to be malicious. But, intended or not, these are words that have impact and can hurt.”

The campaign has already attracted the ire of a Daily Caller columnist who wrote that “Thus, for example, according to officials at the public school, it is wrong to say ‘Purdue’s football team raped Nebraska’s cellar-dwelling football team 55-45 on Saturday’ or ‘If you would have told (me) before the season began that Nebraska’s football team would be 3-6 and a humiliated national laughingstock, people would have called you crazy.’ ”

Gerard Harbison, an outspoken UNL chemistry professor and libertarian blogger, calls it political correctness.

“Several forbidden words are in my vocabulary: I call things crazy all the time, and sometimes people,” he said. “I have no problem with the phrase ‘man up’ — ‘ghetto’ referred originally to Jews, and the usage of ‘rape’ they object to is closer to the original meaning of the word. Heaven forbid they run into Alexander Pope’s ‘Rape of the Lock’. But mostly I think it’s rude for grown-ups to tell other grown-ups what words they can and can’t use.”

The bad word list was compiled from an initial list of 20 considered during a summer residence life work session, based on how often the words are uttered on campus and “overall impact.”

But Peters says the point of the campaign is to get people talking about the words.

“This is not about censorship,” she says. “It’s a campaign designed to raise awareness and get people to start thinking about what they say.”

The second phase of the campaign launches in January with posters advertising words that can be used in place of the words on the no-no list.

UNL said the campaign was modeled after programs on other campuses, including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Duke University.

Earlier this year, the University of Michigan spent $16,000 on a campaign discouraging use of the words crazy, insane, retarded, gay, tranny, gypped, illegal alien, fag, ghetto and raghead. Students were also advised not to use the phrases “I want to die” and “that test raped me.”

Michigan State’s Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives guidelines for “bias-free communication” caution against specifying race or ethnic origin unless it’s relevant or using “questionable racial or ethnic connotations” such as “you people” or “those foreigners.”

And last year, Duke made headlines with its “You Don’t Say” campaign against phrases such as “man up,” “that’s so gay” and “don’t be a pussy.”

The UNL word campaign is part of a larger series that includes a talk by Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, on Thursday.


Deena can be heard on KHAS-AM in Hastings every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. and KOIL-AM in Omaha every Thursday at 4:05 p.m.

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