Housing begins inclusive language campaign

· 4 min read

Housing begins inclusive language campaign

University Housing is launching a campaign to encourage students to think before they speak. Students living in UNL residence halls, including (above) Harper, Schramm, Smith and Village, can volunteer to participate in the program.
File photo | University Communications
University Housing is launching a campaign to encourage students to think before they speak. Students living in UNL residence halls, including (above) Harper, Schramm, Smith and Village, can volunteer to participate in the program.

University Housing has launched a campaign to encourage students to think before they speak.

Organized by housing’s Multicultural and Diversity Education (MADE) Committee, the first part of the “Think Before You Speak Inclusive Language” campaign, which begins Oct. 22, will feature student volunteers wearing brightly colored T-shirts, each with one of six phrases that can be interpreted as offensive to others.

The phrases (see list at bottom) will appear alongside brief explanations on how they can be harmful and a “Think Before You Speak” logo.

“The main purpose of this campaign is for folks to have conversations about these words,” said Melissa Peters, assistant director of residence life for student leadership and diversity initiatives.

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

In January, housing will launch the second part of the campaign, which will include posters showcasing terms that can be used in place of the words on the shirts.

The campaign is modeled after inclusive language programs launched on other college campuses, including those at Michigan, Michigan State and Duke universities. It is also part of a larger diversity series organized by university housing.

The series includes talks by Tim Mousseau, a sexual assault survivor, and Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. Mousseau’s presentation was earlier this semester. Garza’s talk is Nov. 5.

The phrases were selected from a group of about 20 that were generated during a summer residence life work session. Peters said the words were selected based on frequency of use on campus and overall impact.

The words were presented to various campus groups — including the Residence Hall Association, the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center, the Women’s Center and the LGBTQA+ Resource Center — for feedback.

More than 175 students have signed pledges to participate in the program.

“Our student volunteers will all receive information on how to have positive conversations about these words and to communicate with others on why these words can be offensive,” Peters said. “They will also have business cards that encourage people to contact me if they would like more information.”

Volunteers decide which of the phrases they would like to represent. The campaign features six different shirt designs, each color coordinated to a specific term. Participants can wear the shirts any day, but are encouraged to wear them on seven specific days between Oct. 22 and April 12.

T-shirt campaign days are: Oct. 22, campaign launch; Nov. 5, Garza lecture; Dec. 10, International Day of People with Disabilities; Jan. 19, observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day; Feb. 18, MADE gender identity program day; March 21, International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; and April 12, Sexual Awareness Assault Month observance.

“We often hear students say things like, ‘That test raped me,’ or that something is ‘so ghetto,’” Peters said. “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.

“Our inclusive language campaign is designed to educate the campus community about those impacts and how it is better to think before you speak.”

While developed by University Housing, participation in the campaign is open to all UNL students, faculty and staff. For more information, contact Peters at mpeters2@unl.edu or 402-472-3882.

MADE Inclusive Language Campaign T-shirts

In the coming weeks, student volunteers will be wearing shirts with one of the following statements on the back:

Man Up (pink) — Saying “Man Up” reinforces masculine stereotypes that are unhealthy for everyone

No Homo (purple) — Saying “No Homo” devalues love and sexual identities

Retarded (blue) — Saying “Retarded” suggests disability and stupidity are interchangeable

Ghetto (red) — Saying “That’s so Ghetto” misrepresents the experiences of others and negatively stereotypes minority groups

Crazy (green) — Saying “You’re Crazy” minimizes human emotion and those affected by mental illness

Rape (orange) — Saying “Rape” out of context ignores the reality of sexual assault

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