‘American’ and ‘you guys’ among words considered harmful by Stanford group

A cyclist rides by a map of the Stanford University campus on March 12, 2019 in Stanford, California (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Stanford University is drawing criticism and ridicule online after one of the school’s departments proposed eliminating words like “American,” “user” and “guys.”

The school’s IT department introduced its Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative in May, and on Monday, the EHLI published a long list of words that it says could be considered harmful, KTLA sister station KRON reports.

The list contains more than 100 different words and phrases that are deemed harmful, including an explanation for why they are harmful and a word or phrase to use in lieu of the harmful term.

“You guys” showed up in the list’s “gender-based” category. The school suggested using “folks,” “people” or “everyone” instead. The issue with “you guys” is that it “lumps a group of people using masculine language and/or into gender binary groups, which don’t include everyone,” Stanford EHLI explained.

“American” was deemed to be “imprecise language,” and the EHLI said “U.S. citizen” is preferred. “This term (American) often refers to people from the United States only, thereby insinuating that the US is the most important country in the Americas (which is actually made up of 42 countries),” Stanford EHLI said.

Other words and terms on the list include: Karen, white paper, straight, submit, abusive relationship, prisoner, crazy, victim, walk-in and grandfather.

There has been backlash to the list after it was posted, including from Elon Musk.

“This has gone too far, to say the least! @Stanford, what is your explanation for this madness?” Musk tweeted.

Conservative writer and columnist Gabriella Hoffman responded with a quote from former Secretary of State Daniel Webster.

“I was born an American; I will live an American; I shall die an American,” she wrote, adding “Take that, @Stanford!”

The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board also took the school to task.

“Not to beat a dead horse (a phrase that the index says ‘normalizes violence against animals’), but you used to have to get a graduate degree in the humanities to write something that stupid,” the Editorial Board wrote.

Stanford issued a response, clarifying that the list does not represent university policy.

“We have particularly heard concerns about the guide’s treatment of the term ‘American.’ We understand and appreciate those concerns. To be very clear, not only is the use of the term ‘American’ not banned at Stanford, it is absolutely welcomed,” Stanford Chief Information Officer Steve Gallagher said.

Gallagher went on to write that the EHLI meant to say “American” can be imprecise in some uses, but “we clearly missed the mark in this presentation.”