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Washington State University is not on board with professors who would like to block use of some language in the classroom—and penalize students who violate the terms.

Campus Reform reported this week that two professors, Rebecca Fowler and Selena Lester Breikss, included a list of banned words and phrases in their course syllabi. Fowler's list includes "illegal alien" and "colored," as does Breikss', which also includes the word "tranny."

In a statement, interim school president Daniel Bernardo said on behalf of the school:

We are working with these faculty members to clarify, and in some cases modify, course policies to ensure that students’ free speech rights are recognized and protected. No student will have points docked merely as a result of using terms that may be deemed offensive to some. Blanket restriction of the use of certain terms is not consistent with the values upon which this university is founded.

Bernardo continued: "Open dialogue, vigorous debate and the free exchange of ideas, as well as the language used to convey these ideas, are at the core of who we are as a higher education institution."


Breikss declined to comment personally and Fowler did not respond to requests for comment.

In her syllabus, Breikss said she didn't want students using the listed terms specifically or, more generally, any "racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist, or generally offensive language."

Washington State University


She wrote:

If I see [use of this language] or hear it, I will correct it in class since it can be a learning moment for many students. Repeated use of oppressive and hateful language will be handled accordingly – including but not limited to removal from the class without attendance or participation points, failure of the assignment, and - in extreme cases -failure for the semester.

In her own syllabus, Fowler expressed a similar sentiment, adding that phrases like "illegal alien" have been phased out by the Associated Press and have become generally unacceptable for use in public discourse:

Washington State University


Recently, a years-old unofficial University of New Hampshire "bias-free language guide" was removed from the school's website after it was criticized in the media.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.