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University of Michigan Task Force Says the Words ‘Picnic’ and ‘Brown Bag’ Are Offensive

This effort remains a work in progress, but it’s important to remember this is an educational effort ... to better serve the entire university community...

The University of Michigan’s “Words Matter Task Force” determined that several basic words, including “picnic” and “brown bag,” are offensive.

The university created the “Words Matter Task Force” to evaluate “the terms and language conventions” used in the school’s curriculum that “may hinder effective communication, harm morale, and deliberately or inadvertently exclude people from feeling accepted to foment a health and inclusive culture,” according to the College Fix.

“Given the importance of communication and the Information and Technology Services core value of inclusivity, the Words Matter Task Force was formed and charged with identifying terms used within ITS that are, or can be construed to be, racist, sexist, or non-inclusive,” the university explained in a 10-page document.

The problematic words the group identified include: “privileged account,” “handicapped,” “blacklist,” “crazy,” “grandfathered,” and “dummy.”

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Phrases students and faculty members should avoid saying include: “Long time no see,” “Crack the whip,” “Low man on the totem pole,” “Off the reservation,” and “Sold down the river.”

“Picnic” is also an offensive word, according to the task force, which suggested using “gathering” instead.

The task force did not explain its reasoning regarding the word “picnic”, but a Reuters fact check confirmed that the term does not have racist origins.

“The word picnic derives from the 17th century French word ‘pique-nique,’ a term used to describe a social gathering in which attendees each contributed with a portion of food or another useful item,” according to David Pilgrim, author of several books on the history and cultural symbols of the Jim Crow era.

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In a statement, a spokesman for the University of Michigan admitted the new guidelines are a “work in progress.”

“This effort remains a work in progress, but it’s important to remember this is an educational effort about language that will allow the ITS team to better serve the entire university community,” he said. “All educational work around language is undertaken within the context of the university’s strong and long-standing policies on freedom of speech.”

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