CSU official inclusive language guide does not mention “American” despite controversy

Samantha Ye

Google News results for CSU Inclusive Language Guide
Although any recommendation about the term “American” is not in the final draft of the guide, a Google News search result for “CSU Inclusive Language Guide” brings up multiple articles from conservative media sites alleging the University discourages the term “American.”

Media outlets have sparked controversy over a draft version of Colorado State University’s inclusive language guide, which recommends avoiding the word “American.” 

But despite the ire, the final guide does not mention “America” or “American” at all. 

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CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank issued an official statement Thursday defending the guide and stating the claims being made about it on social media and in online publications are “untrue and are based on an outdated document.”

“We consider free speech and the First Amendment the foundations of a great American public university,” Frank wrote. 

Frank wrote that the official guide was created by an informal group of CSU staff to be used as an internal, free resource for people who wanted help avoiding saying anything unintentionally offensive. It is not meant for student use. It is not an official policy or required practice. 

“The guide is not about political-correctness or policing grammar, but rather helping communicators practice inclusive language and helping everyone on our campus feel welcomed, respected and valued,” it reads on the top of the official and draft versions of the guide.

The bottom line is that no one is making anyone use this guide, and we have not seen any evidence that this brief guide has had a chilling effect on that climate on our learning environment.” -Tony Frank, CSU System Chancellor

In the draft version of the language guide, the terms “America” and “American” are listed as words to avoid because the “Americas encompass a lot more than the United States.”

“Yet, when we talk about ‘Americans’ in the United States, we’re usually just referring to people from the United States,” the draft guide reads. “This erases other cultures and depicts the United States as the dominant American country.”

The draft recommends using the terms “U.S. citizen” or “person from the U.S.” instead. 

That entry never made it into the final guide, however. 

“They decided against this on their own and deleted that from the draft before it was ever finalized or circulated to campus,” Frank wrote. “Why that information is being circulated now as current or factual is unclear.”

Conservative news sites such as Campus Reform and The Blaze cited the draft in articles about the “American” entry. According to 9News, a website called Liberty Unyielding headlined their article “Colorado State U. bans words ‘America,’ ‘Americans.’”

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Individuals like Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk and U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, from Colorado Springs, weighed in with tweets.

The websites linked to a draft version of the guide, which was originally uploaded on The Collegian website. That draft was cited in a Collegian opinion column, “Leibee: CSU has gone too far with inclusive language,” where the fact that the document was not official was not included. 

The draft document itself does not say it is unofficial either. 

According to 9News, CSU said it will do a better job at labeling draft and final versions of future documents. 

The official guide does include many other recommendations such as “never assume a person’s gender identity based on their name or their appearance,” and avoid the term “homosexual.”

Frank wrote that most of these suggestions are common sense and have been used for decades. 

“The bottom line is that no one is making anyone use this guide, and we have not seen any evidence that this brief guide has had a chilling effect on that climate on our learning environment,” Frank wrote. “As a university system whose campuses strenuously advocate for First Amendment rights, we will defend someone’s right to try and avoid offending someone inadvertently so long as they don’t force it on others. Contrary to what online articles are portraying, we believe that is what this list aims to do.”

You can read the guides here: Draft guide | Official Guide (posted by 9News)

Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.