A New Low for Political Correctness On Campus

We’ve hit a new low for political correctness on campus. The University of Michigan LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered) office has determined that its name offends a boatload of excluded people. Excerpt from post:

And guess what? The name “Office of LGBT Affairs” oppresses straight people too, a.ka. “allies.” So they’re going to change the name. Great! So call a meeting, toss some ideas around, and pick a new name. Easy! Ah, no. That’s not the way it works in the LGBTQIALMNOP community. Everyone has to be included, every voice has to be heard, input welcomed, feelings honored, etc., etc., etc. And a respectful, inclusive process takes time. How much time?

Three years.

That’s not a typo. They devoted three years to getting due input and coming up with a more inclusive name.

And the wheels of higher ed keep spinning…

(hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

4 comments on “A New Low for Political Correctness On Campus
  • It seems like Sullivan may have misinterpreted what’s going on. See http://gayspirituality.typepad.com/blog/2007/07/beyond-alphabet.html for a differing view of what the University of Michigan is going for.

    In any case, honest attempts to be wary of what names and labels we use in public discourse, especially regarding socially marginalized groups, shouldn’t be mocked simply because they’re ‘politically correct’. Especially in gender and sexuality issues, which have only received public attention in the last couple decades, terms are very fluid and continue to be redefined as social attitudes change. For these reasons, I take issue with the idea that the renaming effort should be dismissed wholesale as a waste of time.

    In regards to the three-year timeline for renaming: What do you expect them to do, pull a new name out of a hat? Since the power of terms used to discuss issues of gender and sexuality stem from social attitudes, it makes sense to draw input from the community for this kind of decision, and that takes time. I’m also quite sure that this isn’t the only thing the organization devoted itself to for three entire years — it’s entirely appropriate to make this a slower process on the backburner while the center devotes most of its time to more immediate day-to-day issues.

  • Hi Ben
    I was recently on a search committee to find a new Dean. One of the meetings all of the candidates had was with the “Queer” alliance of faculty and staff. I have to say that in our politically correct environment I was pretty shocked that this was the name that the gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexuals, etc. had chosen for their group. When I first saw it on the schedule I wondered whether it was a typo. As you can see from the affliated student group http://www.du.edu/orgs/qsa/home.html just about everyone is included. I have to admit I’m still waiting for someone to get offended at the name.
    I suspect you will find many similar quirky things as you embark on your college journey. Enjoy.

  • A couple of things:

    1) Cathy, I think one of the most interesting things about discrimination is that oppressed groups can take a word whose original meaning was degrading, and turn it on its head (e.g. “n—er (the tremendously offensive word harkening to slavery and Jim Crow) becoming nigga, which is an acceptable, and some would say empowering term, within the black community, but isn’t okay to use across racial lines). And I think the same is more or less true with queer – except that it has apparently transformed enough that it’s an acceptable term among straight people and can be used in official, PC lingo. Whereas, there is not going to be a “niggas alliance” on a college campus anytime in the foreseeable future – the PC firestorm would have nightmarish proportions.

    The real question is whether these attempts succeed. Does the recycling of former epithets help or hurt the people they were created to degrade?

    2. The second thing is more in reference to Ben’s actual post. I think it sort of belittles the office in a weird way to just keep adding letters – we’re never going to have enough letters to encompass all of the people who are or have been sexually marginalized, and to keep adding them seems like a sort of PC cowardice whose purpose is avoid criticism and somehow undo past discrimination (which doesn’t work as far as I’m concerned). A friend of mine from school (and fellow San Franciscan) Nellie Bowles, wrote in an Op-Ed that:

    “Professors are stuck in the year they wrote their theses. In that world, a director of gay life was necessary – today, when sexual orientation is being exposed as the spoof it is, when gay and straight are no longer the categories they once were, [the new LGBT programs director] is a looming symbol of liberal folly. Anyone wandering around campus will be struck by a trend in fliers. Meetings labeled “Converging Identities” or “I’m Not Queer, I’m Not Straight” suggest the establishment is trying to dig its claws in and send its own little surge. LGBTQA is the official title of the sexually diverse-as if adding more letters can save the categories from the destruction for which they are destined. We are no longer living in a world of gay students and straight students. Indeed, this is an attitude that might have worked if set to a Village People soundtrack, just not the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Release your grip. A new movement has come. Your work is obsolete.”

    I don’t agree with everything Nellie says in the article, but I think she hits the nail on the head in a couple different respects. <http://media.www.columbiaspectator.com/media/storage/paper865/news/2007/02/19/Opinion/Professors.And.Other.Aging.Institutions-2727617.shtml>.

    Alright, this comment of mine has become a novel, so if this discussion wasn’t dead before, I probably just killed it – but yeah, just some food for thought. solid post Ben.

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