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HomePolicyBrandeis Labels ‘Picnic,’ 'Rule of Thumb' as ‘Oppressive’ Language

Brandeis Labels ‘Picnic,’ ‘Rule of Thumb’ as ‘Oppressive’ Language


Brandeis University in Massachusetts has cautioned its students and teachers to refrain from using words and phrases that “link to violence” and can reinforce “systems of oppression.”

The school’s Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center (PARC) released a list of problematic words which includes “picnic,” “policeman,” and “rule of thumb” for allegedly having racist and sexist origins. “Rule of thumb,” for example, supposedly comes from an old British law that allows men to beat their wives with sticks no wider than their thumbs.

Furthermore, PARC explained that the word “picnic” is often associated with “lynchings of Black people” in the US, during which white spectators were said to have been watching the executions while eating. A suggested alternative for this word is “outdoor eating.”

“As a community, we can strive to remove language that may hurt those who have experienced violence from our everyday use,” the center said. “These recommendations for more-neutral language are brought forth by students who have been subject to violence or who have worked with others who are healing from violence.”

PARC also wants to retire the phrase “trigger warning” as it may alarm some with its connection to guns. The group recommends other language “less connected to violence.”

Receiving Criticisms

US Representative Elise Stefanik, a co-sponsor of a bill upholding campus free speech, claims that the “Oppressive Language List” released by Brandeis is an example of “the Far-Left cancel culture happening in our schools.”

“The Far Left’s radical overhaul of education is un-American. They push so-called ‘safe spaces’ to eliminate diversity of thought, critical thinking, and intellectual curiosity and replace it with Socialist brainwashing, groupthink, and Marxist ideology like Critical Race Theory,” she said.

Pulitzer Prize winner Joyce Carol Oates also took to Twitter, calling it strange that “while the word ‘picnic’ is suggested for censorship because it evokes, in some persons, lynching of Black persons in the US, the word ‘lynching’ is not itself censored.”

She also questioned what would happen to teachers at Brandeis who suddenly utter words such as “picnic” or “trigger warning.” “Loss of tenure, public flogging, self-flagellation?” the famous author asked.

‘Developed by Students’

A Brandeis spokesperson explained last week that the list of prohibited words was developed by students who said many people who have suffered from violence may be further harmed by the language others use in speaking with them.

“It is simply a resource that can be accessed by anyone who wants to consider their own language in an effort to be respectful of others who may have different reactions to certain terms and phrases,” the spokesperson remarked.

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