It’s happened to all of us — we are sitting in the back of our least favorite 8 a.m. class we are taking solely to fulfill a GER, counting the ceiling tiles, waiting for class to end — and then it happens. The professor, who has been droning on about the merits of sedimentary rocks, suddenly slips in a word he shouldn’t have said. He may not have meant it in an offensive manner, but it jars the classroom, and there are always a few awkward moments in which everyone silently judges that professor, right or wrong.
As a result of situations like these, the Student Assembly is advocating for the administration to combat the problem of professors saying the word “retarded” in class. After Stephanie Cohen, undersecretary of Disability Services, discussed concerns students have about their professors using the offensive word with the administration, an email was sent to professors about using offensive language in the classroom. This is a wise move on the part of the College, as the R-word is derogatory slang and, when used as such, has no place in an academic setting.
Admittedly, there is always the ever-changing debate over political correctness — what is politically correct, and what is not? It seems that the idea of politically correct words changes so frequently that one can never keep up with the times, but there are some words that are simply common sense, and the R-word is one of them.
We hold the faculty at the College to the same high standards to which we hold ourselves. As students, we have the right to stand up to professors when they are out of line. Just because they have a doctorate and tenure doesn’t mean they are shielded from changing perspectives on behavior and words. The word may not have carried the same stigma when they were going to school, but that is irrelevant. Presently, the word is offensive; this is what matters. We do not want offensive words used in our college community.
While we don’t believe it is appropriate to use the words in such negative ways, we also understand context is key. In William Faulkner’s “The Sound and The Fury,” the R-word is used multiple times. We certainly do not advocate the word be censored, deleted, or even replaced when recited within that text. What is needed is an understanding of what it meant then as opposed to what it means now.
Sending an email was the right thing to do, and although the action could be considered too politically correct, the truth is, it isn’t. We are all part of this community, and we have the right to call out offensive behavior when we see it or hear it. The R-word should not be used in the classroom in a negative way to say something or someone is stupid. If we allow this word to be used in the classroom, then we might as well let homophobic, religious and racial slurs to be used as well. But that’s ridiculous. The use of the R-word is, too.
People with intellectual disabilities are often forgotten within our society. This is extremely disheartening, and we believe we should stand up and make their voices heard. This starts with standing up against the use of the R-word.