Stanford IT ‘harmful language’ guide stirs controversy


(NewsNation) — Stanford University is facing backlash after it published an index of “harmful language” and announced plans to eliminate the words from the school’s website and computer code.

Among, the “harmful language” designated was the word “American.” IT staffers were told to use the term U.S. citizen instead, with context from the guide saying it is to not insinuate the U.S. is the most important country in the Americas.

The list provided inclusive replacements and context as to why the terms were being replaced, saying the effort was to help educate people about the possible impact of the words being used in the IT community.

“This website focuses on potentially harmful terms used in the United States, starting with a list of everyday language and terminology,” the initiative said. “Our ‘suggested alternatives’ are in line with those used by peer institutions and within the technology community.”

However, the guide was received poorly by some and was even mocked by The Stanford Review, Stanford’s student-run independent newspaper.

“We at the Review are ballsy, therefore we’ve committed numerous violations of the ‘harmful language standard’ throughout the text — they are all bolded to show that we know the new rules, but choose to ignore them,” the Stanford Review said, bolding the word “ballsy,” as it is one of the words that landed a spot on the banned list.

Stanford first released the “harmful language” guide in May to assist in its Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative, a multi-year project designed to address language in IT at Stanford.

The Wall Street Journal reported that after the index began gaining traction on social media, Stanford hid the website from public view.

The university posted an update on the initiative Tuesday, stating that the guidelines were meant to provide advice for the IT community on word choices and does not represent broader university policy.

“We have particularly heard concerns about the guide’s treatment of the term ‘American.’ We understand and appreciate those concerns,” Steven Gallagher, the Chief Information Officer at Stanford University said. “To be very clear, not only is the use of the term ‘American’ not banned at Stanford, it is absolutely welcomed.”

Walker Edward Stewart, the executive editor for the Stanford Review, joined “Morning in America,” saying that political correctness in language has gone too far.

“They’re really just trying to butcher the English language in their pursuit of diversity and inclusivity. And it isn’t diverse. And it doesn’t actually include anybody when you can’t say anything,” Stewart said.

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