A Welsh university has been accused of censorship after banning the use of terms such as “right-hand man”, “waitress” and “forefathers” on campus in a crackdown on gendered language.
Students and staff at Cardiff Metropolitan University could face “disciplinary procedures” if they fail to adhere to the institution’s language policy, which states that terms such as “mankind”, “housewife” and “man-made” should be avoided.
“In general terms language should always be inclusive,” the document reads, offering a check-list of 34 gender-neutral terms.
Swapping “sportsmanship” for “sense of fair play” and “workmanlike” for “efficient”, students are also advised to use the term “typical citizen” instead of “man in the street”.
Despite the university’s aim to make everyone on campus “feel valued”, Cardiff Met has been accused of attacking free speech and patronising students and staff.
Dr Joanna Williams, academic freedom expert and University of Kent lecturer, told the Telegraph the ban was “unnecessary”.
“The idea that in a university people need to be dictated to in this way is really insulting to students and academics, we should be able to cope with words.
“These words have evolved over a long period of time and they don’t have sexist associations.”
The policy also dictates that the phrases “homosexual” and “heterosexual” should not be used as they are “laden with the values of a previous time”.
“Referring to ‘same-sex’ and ‘other-sex’ relationships is a good option,” the document reads.
“Nobody likes being lumped together in a group, so try to avoid generalised terms such as ‘the disabled’, ‘the blind’,” it continues.
“’Disabled people’ is preferable to ‘the disabled’ or ‘people with disabilities’ as it emphasises that the people are disabled by a society which doesn’t accommodate them.
“Don’t be too anxious about the use of language, though,” the policy adds.
“Blind people do use terms like ‘see you later’ and being too careful can make conversation difficult for both parties.”
But the document has sparked a backlash from members of the public who say it represents yet another restriction on free speech in higher education.
A study released last month revealed that 94% of universities now censor their students.
Last month, former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson was banned from speaking at Oxford Brookes over protest fears, while the student union at Strathclyde University prevented a pro-life group from founding an official society over fears it would violate students’ “safe space” on campus.
A man named Richard Dowling wrote on Twitter: “Yet another case of free speech being stifled on our uni campuses. This is getting silly (and dangerous)!”
Another social media user sarcastically commented that it was nice to see universities “spending money wisely”, while someone else called the policy “another idiotic student clampdown”.
But the university has defended its position, saying that it aims to provide a “positive working environment, free from discrimination, harassment and victimisation”.
A Cardiff Metropolitan spokesperson said: “As part of this approach, the University has a Code of Practice on Using Inclusive Language, which sets out a broad approach to promoting fairness and equality through raising awareness about the effects of potentially discriminatory vocabulary.
“It makes suggestions for the avoidance of inappropriate generalisations and provides some illustrative examples of gender-laden vocabulary with some neutral alternatives – an approach adopted for many years by the British Sociological Association setting out appropriate professional working practice of its members.”
They continued: “Complaints about the excesses of so-called ‘political correctness’ and their impact on organisational cultures are not new.
“For Cardiff Met, though, academic freedom and the celebration of diversity are cornerstones of University life – and are entirely compatible with each other.”
Cardiff Metropolitan University’s gender-neutral checklist:
Best man for the job - Best person for the job
Businessman/woman - Businessperson, manager, executive
Chairman/woman - Chair, chairperson, convenor, head
Charwoman, cleaning lady - Cleaner
Craftsman/woman - Craftsperson, craft worker
Delivery man - Delivery clerk, courier
Dear Sirs - Dear Sir/Madam (or Madam/Sir)
Fireman - Fire-fighter
Forefathers - Ancestors, forebears
Foreman/woman - Supervisor, head juror
Gentleman’s agreement - Unwritten agreement, agreement based on trust
Girls (for adults) - Women
Headmaster/mistress - Headteacher
Housewife - Shopper, consumer, homemaker (depends on context)
Layman - Lay person
Man or mankind - Humanity, humankind, human race, people
Man (verb) e.g man the desk - Operate, staff, work at
Man in the street, common man - Average/ordinary/typical citizen/person - but is there such a person?
Man hour - Work hour, labour time
Man-made - Artificial, manufactured, synthetic
Manpower - Human resources, labour force, staff, personnel, workers, workforce
Miss/ Mrs - Ms unless a specific preference has been stated - though its common not to use titles at all these days
Policeman/woman - Police officer
Right-hand man - Chief assistant
Salesman/girl/woman - Sales assistant/agent/clerk/representative/staff/worker
Spokesman/woman - Spokesperson, representative
Sportsmanship - Fairness, good humour, sense of fair play
Steward/ess - Airline staff, flight attendant, cabin crew
Tax man - Tax officer/inspector
Waitress - Waiter/server
Woman doctor - or feminine forms of nouns e.g actress, poetess - Doctor (actor, poet etc)
Working man, working mother/wife - Wage earner/ taxpayer/worker
Workman - Worker/operative/trades person
Workmanlike - Efficient/proficient/skilful/proficient