The president of the University of New Hampshire on Wednesday distanced himself from a campus language guide discouraging faculty and students from terms it warns could cause offense, including “American.”
The university’s “Bias-Free Language Guide” also advises against using the term “poor,” instead recommending the phrase “person living at or below the poverty line,” drew criticism from conservatives in the state who called it an example of political correctness run amok.
The problem with using the word “American,” according to the guide, is that it “assumes the U.S. is the only country in North and South America.” It suggests using “U.S. citizen or resident of the U.S.” as alternatives.
The publication was created in 2013, according to a university official, but generated controversy earlier this week when several conservative websites decried it as a flagrant example of political correctness at American universities.
“Sounds like a starting point for wasting taxpayer money,” wrote blogger Steve MacDonald on the conservative website Granite Grok. He referred to the guide as a “politically correct starter kit.”
The university’s president, Mark Huddleston, said on Wednesday that the guide was not school policy.
“I am troubled by many things in the language guide, especially the suggestion that the use of the term ‘American’ is misplaced or offensive,” Huddleston said in a statement. “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.”
According to its authors, the guide seeks to “invite inclusive excellence” at the university.
“This guide is not a means to censor but rather to create dialogues of inclusion where all of us feel comfortable and welcomed,” states the guide, which is posted on the university’s website.
Other recommendations include not using the term “Arab,” but rather “Western Asian” or “Northern African people,” and not using the term “blind person,” but rather “visually impaired.”
A university spokeswoman said the guide was put together by “a small group of faculty, staff and students.”