A Massachusetts college is backpedaling after facing accusations of trying to stifle free speech with a “Common Language Guide” that criticizes capitalism and provides definitions to students on terms ranging from “Toxic Masculinity” to the “White Savior Complex.”
The 40-page glossary issued to students at Amherst College, which champions itself as a private liberal arts institution “committed to inclusivity and ensuring that all students feel they belong”, was yanked off its website last week following an apparent deluge of angry emails sent to the school’s president and an outcry from its College Republicans club.
“It wasn’t the college’s place to tell us what these things meant,” Brantley Mayers, a senior member of the club, told the Boston Herald. “They were establishing the parameters of speech.
“A culture has been bred on campus that dismisses conservative viewpoints and dismisses conservative students,” he added.
The document, posted online again by the website The College Fix, defines the following terms as such:
- CAPITALISM: “An economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for proﬁt, rather than by the state. This system leads to exploitative labor practices, which aﬀect marginalized groups disproportionately.”
- TOXIC MASCULINITY: “Masculinity as deﬁned by violence, sexual acts, status, aggression, and the oppression of others. Toxic masculinity hurts everyone, including cisgender men. It is characterized with rigid gender roles and expectations that are often violently enforced. Men are unable to express or feel emotion, and the fear of being deemed in proximity to being gay or a woman is constant threat.”
- REVERSE OPPRESSION: “There is no such thing as reverse oppression. Oppression is predicated upon access to institutional power. Marginalized communities do not have access to institutional power. For example, women can be as prejudiced as men, but women cannot be ‘just as sexist as men,’ because they do not hold political, economic and institutional power.”
- LEGAL/ILLEGAL: “Highly racialized term to describe a person’s presence in a nation without government-issued immigration status. Not an appropriate noun or adjective to describe an individual.”
- WHITE SAVIOR COMPLEX: “An attitude or posture of condescending benevolence based on the idea that white people inherently should, are in a position to and are qualiﬁed to ‘save’ people of color. This can be seen internationally as well as domestically.”
Amherst College’s president, Biddy Martin, said in a statement posted on its website that “our resource-center staff worked to create a guide that would help members of the community understand the experiences and perspectives of students from underrepresented and under-appreciated groups.
“It was sent out to the entire campus without appropriate vetting and without approval to be circulated, creating the impression that it was a formal college document calling for shared language about very complicated issues,” she continued. “Our chief diversity and inclusion officer, Norm Jones, and I quickly made it clear that the document is not an official college guide. We removed it from the college website in order to underscore that fact.”
Martin also said “my email inbox and the conversations I have had… are ample proof that we do not need an executive order to ensure freedom of speech or diversity of viewpoints on our campus.
“Still, a college, to be a college, must protect freedom of expression and promote differences of perspectives in ways the document, absolute and declarative in tone, did not appear to do,” she added.
Mayers and another College Republican member told the Boston Herald they were offered assurances by Amherst College that it was not trying to enforce the language found in the document.
Adam Steinbaugh, a reporter at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which specifically fights for free speech, said to the newspaper that it's “pretty uncommon to see something like this retracted.”