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Monday, June 1, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Outside View: Ban may be politically correct, but not lawfully

The following commentary from the Moscow-Pullman Daily News does not necessarily reflect the view of The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board.

Last week, Washington State University made headlines around the country when the contents of a few course syllabi got out that indicated students would be penalized for using terms that might be considered offensive to certain groups.

Among the words were “the man,” “colored people,” “illegals/illegal immigrants,” “male or female” and “tranny.”

Some of these we get – while certain groups like the NAACP might say otherwise, generally speaking “colored” hasn’t been an acceptable term since sometime in the 1960s. Anyone with any consideration for the LGBT community should know “tranny” is unacceptable. And over the past few years there has been a lot of discussion about how placing “illegal” prior to either “alien” or “immigrant” is dehumanizing. The preferred nomenclature there is “undocumented.”

It’s understandable that a professor, particularly in classes with words like “multicultural” or “ethnic studies” in their titles, might be inclined to try to head off at the pass any sort of glib, tasteless humor from a bro who accidentally stumbled into the classroom on the way to the frat house, but such policies are clearly an overreach for any campus that hopes to promote free thinking and free speech ideals.

While none of the professors who had such policies listed in their syllabi were willing to comment to the Daily News, it’s fairly easy to imagine a professor who teaches such classes might be sensitive to the use of certain words to protect some students who might be offended, or even feel threatened, by them.

If that’s difficult to understand, a quick glimpse at the many offensive comments posted to these stories online might drudge up some sympathy for those professors.

But using students’ GPAs as a means to modify their speech seems awfully close to blackmailing them to adopt a particular political or social agenda. College is supposed to be somewhere students go to have their minds opened up, not narrowed down.

We were glad to hear WSU officials have decided to take another look at some of those policies to “clarify, and in some cases modify, course policies to ensure that students’ free speech rights are recognized and protected.”

That was really the only politically correct way to handle the situation.

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