In some parts of the country, there’s a belief that if there’s a crazy idea floating around, then it must have come from California. A lot of that is a hold over from the Vietnam protest movement and the hippies, and some is just plain “don’t like ’em” with little basis in reality.
Of course, when the Berkeley Student Cooperative, a student housing “cooperative” that provides housing for some 1,300 students, does stuff like this, it’s really hard to say there’s no basis in reality.
The Berkeley Student Cooperative (BSC) a large student housing cooperative at the University of California Berkeley, serving over 1300 students in 17 houses and 3 apartment buildings, recently established guidelines in order to create a “Safe Space” to protect “Person of Color” and “Gender Queer” student residents from potential discrimination.
The BSC “Safe Space” guidelines give a comprehensive list of 4 rules to prevent uncomfortable discussions and avoid “risks” of offending other students.
These principles include asking students to refrain from “project[ing]” opinions without using the pronoun “I” and to “maintain gender neutrality in [their] language” in addition to “inquir[ing] about preferred pronouns.” The guidelines also ask students to refrain from making judgements or “disclaimers,” including self-judgements.
Students are reminded repeatedly to “check [their] assumptions.” An additional list of unsafe activities that are not allowed in the BSC “Safe Space” includes but is not limited to the following:
• “Assumptions about my motives and/or intentions”
• “Expectation to conform; be involved in group think”
• “Using position of power to dominate a situation”
• “Being touched without permission”
• “Problems aren’t brought to group’s attention but discussed in small groups”
• “Passive aggression”
• “Using exclusive language”
• “Unnecessary yelling”
• “Aggressive body language”
• “Loud noises”
• “Very vocal negativity/absolutes”
• “Guilt tripping”
Seriously folks, we can’t make this stuff up. We tried, but then this came across our desk and blew everything we’d come up with out of the water on the scale of sheer ridiculousness.
Let’s be honest, the amount of stupidity is actually kind of impressive.
First, let’s address the idea of speaking in “gender neutral” ways. The English language isn’t really built for that. There’s masculine pronouns and feminine pronouns. The only neutrals are for plurals like “they.” So, that’s just how it is. Lists of pseudo-pronouns exist, but they’re generally mocked on principle.
Next, there’s the idea that people should ask what pronouns someone prefers. Since there are some who seem to pick a pronoun based on the way they’re feeling that day, requests become ridiculous. BSC wants students to ask each and every day just to find out the proper pronoun to use. Here’s a thought: If you present yourself as a dude, you’re male. If you present yourself as a woman, you’re female. None of this back and forth stuff either. Most of us have a hard enough time keeping up with our own feelings day to day. We don’t have time to worry whether you’re feeling boyish or girlish from one moment to the next.
Then, of course, there’s the list of behaviors students are supposed to avoid.
Sweet cello-playing Einstein, what the heck is this mess? No “Using position of power to dominate a situation?” Folks, that’s called “being in charge.” If you’re in a position of power, there are times you’re supposed to use it to dominate the situation. It’s what you do.
Then we have no “Expectation to conform; be involved in group think.” This is pretty hysterical if you ask us. After all, this whole thing smacks of group think. Or is the problem which group is doing the thinking?
Of course, this list also expects people to go against human nature. After all, no “resentment?” Yes, it would be better if people didn’t resent others for whatever reason. However, it happens. Banning it won’t make the problem disappear. Instead, it’s likely to force it beneath the surface where it will fester, rather than allowing it out into the open so it can be discussed.
The odd thing is that none of this touches on the free speech issues.
Azhar Majeed, a spokesperson for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), told Campus Reform he is concerned the BSC’s “Safe Space” policy will limit students’ free expression.
“As a free speech advocate I have concerns that this will have a chilling effect on free speech,” Majeed said. “It will make students watch everything they say more than necessary on a college campus… a student who’s reading this is really going to walk around on eggshells rather than risk offending somebody.”
Majeed doesn’t see any issue with trying to let students know how their speech impacts others, but this is just stupid.
What do you think? We want to hear from you, so hit us up in the comments below.