News Story

MSU’s inclusive language guide lets the Spartan off the hook

If MSU isn’t willing to practice what it preaches, it should stop preaching

Michigan State University, whose mascot is a war-mongering, child eugenics-practicing, slave-owning Spartan, created an inclusive guide of offensive words students, faculty and staff should avoid using. Warning: The list is long, very long. However, there are some highlights worth noting.

If you are looking forward to a Merry Christmas complete with a tree in your dwelling or a spring visit from the Easter Bunny, MSU will do its best to ensure its students do not join the festivities. “Avoid references to religious imagery and language. Instead, Spartans should use expressions such as ‘wishing you a wonderful winter/spring break’ or ‘best wishes for the new year.’”

Read it for yourself: The MSU Guide to Inclusive Language

Program from the July 1945 unveiling of The Spartan

MSU would appreciate it if you do not talk about giving thanks on that one holiday with the theme of, well, giving thanks. It doesn’t matter if you give thanks for where you live because of the brave men and women who fought for our freedoms. If we engage in this practice, MSU frowns upon it.

Although it does appear not every person working at or attending school at the university is getting the message.

On MSU’s website there are 4,080 results for “Thanksgiving,” and “Christmas” has three times as many references, at 12,100. If you are saddened by the guide’s omission of your Savior’s birthday, take heart: you can still buy a “Christmas Tree Skirt” at the MSU shop for $44.99.

If you are offended by the terms “freshman” and “upperclassman,” do not fret. Michigan State now says to use the phrases “first-year” and “advanced,” because words that contain “man” are too sex-specific. It is also a good idea not to use the word “emeritus.” Replace with “emeritum.” The university still uses “emeritus” 10,000 times on its website, according to a search in reference to professors.

American Indian and Native American are no longer culturally acceptable, according to the “powers that be” at MSU. It is unclear if those responsible for the inclusive guide consulted with the university’s Native American Institute before adding the terms to the list. You can also apply for a Native American scholarship at the college and engage in American Indian and Indigenous studies. Just don’t say the words when applying for the scholarship or requesting to join the class.

You no longer should use “charged words” in reference to religions. These include “extremist,” “militant,” “terrorist,” “radical,” “fundamentalist,” “cult”, “sect,” “devout” and “pious.” That is unless you write for MSU. Then it appears to be OK to use the words “fundamentalist Christian.”

“Fundamentalist Christians tap into their willingness to sacrifice to conserve water and energy, shop environmentally and protect the Earth, according to a Michigan State University (MSU) study,” according to an MSU news report.

There are some contradictions in the language guide. It says not to call a person visually impaired, but instead, “blind.” Unless you say “blindly”, then it is ableist. For example, “Is Uncle Bryan blind?” Is perfectly acceptable. However, “I blindly walked into that meeting and wish I had prepared more” is offensive, according to MSU.

Is a family member or friend behaving in an odd or bizarre fashion? Whatever you do, do not say they are acting crazy, insane, bonkers, nuts, psycho, demented, senile, loony, or psychotic.

If your kids are loud and creating chaos this summer and you can’t manage it well, do not call your home a “madhouse” because it is offensive to, well, not sure. If your spouse says you were “underprepared” and “at-risk” of a chaotic summer, you should be offended because it places blame on you “rather than the structures and barriers that have neglected communities.” You also have the right to be offended but not “off the reservation” about it if your spouse says let’s “bury hatchet” and just “hold down the fort,” because those terms are considered colonial language.

It is important to note that the guide “provides recommendations for informing campus communications professionals.” In other words, it is meant for MSU communications. The guide says it does not apply to academic, media, or legal departments of the university. What makes the guide even more brow-raising is the insinuation that marketing and communications teams should not use these words but professors and lawyers for the university can. Exactly what message is this supposed to send?

I am an MSU alumna. I love being a Spartan. However, if MSU is going to view everything through the lens of “inclusion,” why doesn’t it address the fact that Spartans were “oppressive” and “violent”?

The Spartans owned slaves, were violent warriors, and engaged in child eugenics. For the school to keep that name while wagging fingers is to let itself off the hook. If MSU isn’t willing to practice what it preaches, it should stop preaching.

The Spartans running this institution of higher learning are just fine associating themselves with slave owners who end the lives of undesirable children. Students and faculty get lectures about wrongthought.

Let the first Spartan to stop chanting “Go Green, Go White” cast the first stone.

Jamie A. Hope is assistant managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email her at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.