Speech And Thought Control At CUNY

The minds of your children aren't safe at CUNY, but your penguins might enjoy it there...

The minds of your children aren’t safe at CUNY, but your penguins might enjoy it there…

A responsible parent has an ethical duty to pull their child out of any university that does  something like this.

From The College Fix:

“Effective Spring 2015, the (graduate center’s) policy is to eliminate the use of gendered salutations and references in correspondence to students, prospective students, and third parties,” Louise Lennihan, interim provost, states to employees in a recent memo. “Accordingly, Mr. and Ms. should be omitted from salutations.” Lennihan instructs staffers to interpret the new policy “as broadly as possible,” that it applies to “all types of correspondence, such as: all parts of any letter including address and salutation, mailing labels, bills or invoices, and any other forms or reports,” states the memo, a copy of which was provided to The College Fix by school spokeswoman Tanya Domi. Rather than using “Mr.” or “Ms.,” staff are instructed to refer to students by his or her full name. The policy will “ensure a respectful, welcoming, and gender-inclusive learning environment … [and] accommodate properly the diverse population of current and prospective students,” Lennihan states in the memo.

Now, I almost never use these salutations any more. “Mr.” has always seemed pompous to me, and now it reminds me of the New York Times with its tradition of calling the President “Mr. Obama.” (Over the weekend, the Times garnered guffaws for calling Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker “Mr. Scott” throughout an op-ed. Nice editing there). “Miss” seems condescending, “Mrs.” is a minefield, and “Ms.” sounds ugly while being both dated and unwelcome from some women. (Once I called a women “Ms.” and she barked at me, “Do I look like a dyke to you???”) And I hate being called Mister myself. All of the is irrelevant, It is not any university’s business to enact speech codes, banned words, or other undemocratic and ideologically driven attempts at censorship and speech control. Speech control is thought control, and thought control is indoctrination.

This isn’t merely encouraging political correctness, it is swallowing it, belching and saying “Yum!” The school has made the on-its-face absurd excuse that the ban was necessary ” to comply with Title IX legal principles,” on the certifiably batty theory that the federal statute banning gender discrimination at government funded educational institutions also prohibits attempts to distinguish between the genders in speech.

This censorship freight train has been coming at us down the tracks since the 70’s, beginning with “Ms.,” ironically. The there was the rebellion against the generic  “him” and “his” as the default pronoun for an unspecified person (leading to the use of the un-grammatical plural “their”), the term “mankind,” and even the “-man” in the word woman, which was mutated into the silly “womyn.” (It never caught on.)

Then there is the pompous and confusing insistence by female dramatic performers that they be called “actors,” unless, of course, they want a smaller pool to win awards in, in which case they are very happy to be designated Best “Actresses.” The standard argument for such attempted strangulations of language diversity (diversity good, being able to describe diverse individuals bad) is “What difference does it make whether the actor is male of female?” The standard answer is, or should be, “Who are you to tell me what information I convey in my speech, you censorious speech fascist?

The consistent theme of such campaigns is  to make it linguistically impossible to think politically incorrect thoughts, and since it is difficult to form concepts that one lacks the linguistic building blocks to assemble, society must make those blocks unavailable. This is totalitarian methodology, and the most slippery and sinister of slopes—it’s slippister. Yet such intrusive and illiberal abuse of power is being wielded by of all institutions, the very ones supposedly dedicated to free and open thought and discourse. Any word-banning—any, and that includes such reviled targets as “retard” and “nigger”— is a betrayal of the tradition of liberal education and academic freedom as well as the First Amendment. Any university official who doesn’t comprehend this is not merely unqualified to educate, but a dangerous educator.

This particular offense to free thought has been triggered, I assume, by the recent problem of dealing fairly and compassionately with trans students on campus. What do you call them? If you call other students “Mr.” or “Miss,” will they feel excluded? Offended? Following the bizarre logic that has completely infected the Left, university officials have decided that the mode of address to 99.9% of the world must be constrained in order to eliminate a source of discomfort for the remaining .1%

The number of ways CUNY’s edict is ethically wrong is impressive. In addition to embracing tyranny of the minority, which is unfair, undemocratic and illogical, it also breaches the principle of autonomy, attempting to dictate what belongs within every humyn being’s sole control, their thoughts and words. The attempt at word policing abandons integrity as a rejection of free thought and academic freedom. It is irresponsible, since there is no natural barricade between banning “Mr.” and banning “liberty.” (The University of Michigan is even further down the slippister slope, having announced a whole package of words and phrases that students must banish from their brains.).

It is even uncivil. Using “Mr.” and the rest communicate respect, though I recognize that intent means nothing when the Political Correctness Bat Signal is shining and contrived offense is summoned. Don’t call me “Jack” until I give you permission, or until we know each other. Calling me “Jack Marshall” is stilted and strange, and “Marshall” reminds me of those awful days on the playground when tiny thugs would throw contempt my way. The order is, on top of everything else, incompetent.

Why would a parent let their children’s minds be turned to un-American mush by a school run by people who think this way? How can administrators this confused, foolish, inept and doctrinaire be trusted to educate anyone?

___________________________

Sources: College Fix 1, 2; Wall Street Journal

29 thoughts on “Speech And Thought Control At CUNY

  1. The world of ethics, morals, truth , integrity, manners seem to be a lot part of the largest population of America. Sad to say there is to large of a percentage of the U.S. population that is relaxed in a corrupt and ill mannered society.

    Recently as an example : Representative Calvey (Republican) from Oklahoma has introduced House Bill 2206 that exempts politicians from arrest prosecution and corruption.
    It does not matter anymore if someone is Republican or Democrat they are both for the same agenda and the citizens of the U.S. are the losers.

  2. Perhaps I’m confused. From reading the excerpt that you selected, the university in question doesn’t appear to be banning those gendered words from everyone at large, but instead is issuing editorial guidelines for its own staff to use in official correspondence representing the university? In which case, I don’t have a problem with that. It prevents embarrassing mistakes, like when I saw two students named Kelley and Lindsey, respectively, both referred to a “Ms”, when each were males. Takes the guesswork out of the androgynous out there. I don’t see the harm. Now if they were trying to ban students using it between themselves, or staff during their off time, that would be pretty bad, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here.

    • I mean, to use your example, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with the university banning the use of “nigger” or “retard” in their official correspondence, or by staff during work hours in their official capacity as professors. So I guess I don’t see the outrage here.

    • “Interpreted broadly” is the code to note there. The message is that such salutations are discriminatory—the letter de facto directs them to be avoided in speech as well as correspondence. Obviously they are trying to avoid a Constitutional challenge

      • “Interpreted broadly” by people working for the university, I thought, in which I don’t see it as inappropriate. The university has a right to represent itself as it pleases. They can regulate on the job speech and correspondence from its staff in a way they cannot do for students. But I guess we have different interpretations of the same policy.

  3. http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/cuny-bans-mr-ms-correspondence-article-1.2098225

    “A Graduate Center spokeswoman told the Daily News that the new rule was not meant to eliminate free speech and that professors could still call students whatever they’d like in the classroom.”

    Now, my reading of the new Title IX standards (most of which are really bad) does not seem to imply that these CUNY correspondence requirements are required by them.

    However, I also think that a lot of people are making this into more than what it really is.

    • Censorious asshattery?

      I mean really… Any ape of normal intelligence could tell you that Title IX (which I agree is awful) is being misapplied here. It’s a cop out. There’s a politically correct social engineering experiment going on, and while they SAY they aren’t forcing their faculty to conform (Which I’m sure one of us actually believes), how much do you want to bet that the first time Sarah (who was born Sam) complains about being called “Mr.” it’ll go to a review board?

      • Right. And if the school thinks it’s a violation to write it, then they are also saying it is a violation to say it. If it’s wrong for the teachers to use the term, it can’t be right for the students to do so. This isn’t even a slope.

      • I don’t quite get the issue. Just each student be called by whatever they want to present themselves as. (Selection of housing or phys ed would be another issue that is not related to enrollment, financials, or roll list) Ms Sarah or Mr Sam would be on the class roll, but shouldn’t affect their exams, history papers or programs they write.

        • See, I think your comment there highlights a fundamental misunderstanding the population at large has about post-secondary education. The point isn’t to write exams and papers, the point is to learn. And not just job skills, but how to function as an adult human being. And more and more, these social justice policies come out and infantilize and already infantilized group. Can you imagine a person refusing to use gendered pronouns in life?

          And this isn’t in a vacuum, bleeding hearts have started to carve out sections of language we just can’t use anymore. And it’s pure sophistry. We don’t dare label things what they are because someone with White Liberal Guilt might take offense on behalf of people that just don’t care. It’s painful, yet fun watching them comment on UFC matches, “Which one is LaRock?” “Well, it’s the person in the slightly lighter blue trunks.” No dumbass, he’s the black guy.

  4. As a side note, I love how almost all media deferentially refer to Democratic presidents as “Mr. So-and-so,” while snidely referring to Republican presidents only by their last name (at best, See eg. Mollie Ivins and “Shrub.”)

    • Thanks for the big laughs. This case also had me thinking that the Soviet Union Style Manual is only one more step away – where everyone is referred to in third person as [first initial of first name][last name]. That was just something I noticed, or thought I noticed, back during the Cold War. In keeping with my disdain for “identity-ism” via bourgeois titles, though, I actually support this general trend, much like Jack. Call me a hippie.

      • Good, I was hoping someone would find it amusing. I feel a little bad for tarring all democrats that way, but being more verbose wouldn’t have fit the comment well. :p I believe that neither Beth nor Liberal Dan are big fans of political correctness for instance.

  5. I just remember in undergrad back in the late 80s/early 90s that there was officially a policy in place against gender-exclusive pronouns that specified terms such as “chair” must be used instead of “chairman,” all references to unspecified individuals must be “his or her” and so on. Enforcement was selective, but I remember one professor (female, of course) saying up front that each deviation from gender-inclusivity on an assignment would result in the loss of a grade step – i.e. A becomes A- and so on. So if you twice slipped and used the generic “his” and made a reference to a “congressman” a B was the best you could hope for, no matter what the substantive content was, because “the way you say something affects what is said.” I decided to switch to another course with a feminazi not at the helm.

  6. Are “sir” and “ma’am” acceptable? Or can we just go ahead and refer to strangers as “dog”, “boss”, or “sport” 100% of the time now?

    • I think sir and ma’am started getting attacked as the boomers went over the dread big ’30.’ I have a 50 year old friend having a violent spaz because she doesn’t want to be ‘Grandma’ and is considering being called something from a list of silly/narcissistic alternatives because she doesn’t want to be old.

      Dog and these others aren’t necessarily respectful to same age and terrible to people even ten years older. And until you are a senior citizen, a very large chunk of those you meet or work with will be older or have done something worthy of respect.

      • Obviously not an issue for me.

        I’ve heard some grandmothers demand to be called glam-ma and/or goddess. They must be much better looking than I am. I could never get away with those.

      • When I was in graduate school at a Southern Unversity, this was a common problem. The polite male students would often hold the door for female students. They would also reply to female graduate students and professors with “yes, ma’am”. It was alternately horrifying/amusing to see a new Northeastern woman respond to such treatment. About half of them would yell and scream at the poor student who was only trying to be nice and respectful. It was both sad and amusing to look at the face of the confused and hurt kid who was wondering how not slamming the door in a woman’s face was considered ‘misogynistic’ behavior. Students who responded with “yes, ma’am” were often castigated for minutes during class.

        I assume similar social conditioning is in store for people at CUNY.

  7. I wonder how long this policy will last when the students start referring to their professors by their first name instead of “Dr. XXX” or “professor XXX”.

    Having come from twenty years in academia – where I never really did fit in, I know that some will have a conniption fit if they are addressed without the appropriate reference to rank.

  8. Are universities in other countries and cultures having these struggles with salutations? I think if they were, we would have heard about it by now.

    So is this another, sly, all-American, New Puritan, CUNY-first attempt at some new-millennial American exceptionalism?

  9. Honorifics have and will always serve a purpose in polite society. As a man once observed, titles of respect are like lubrication in the wheels of society. This insane endeavor by CUNY is only another leftist attempt to reduce everyone down to a common level of mediocrity (and depravity) in both mind and body.

    • “Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as “empty,” “meaningless,” or “dishonest,” and scorn to use them. No matter how “pure” their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.”
      –Lazarus Long, in Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein

      • Yep. I was unintentionally plagiarizing Heinlein! I wondered where that “lubrication” thingy came from that popped into my crazed cranium. That damned old squid owns a piece of my brain from the grave!! Horrid thought, that.

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