On Monday, Emory University released its inaugural list of approved words, the “Permitted 200.” Starting on January 15, 2019, students will be permitted to use these words, and no others, in all classroom discussions.
The Permitted 200 marks a major step forward in Emory 2030, the school’s visionary campaign to become the most inclusive university in America. The school hopes that the Permitted 200 will be the game changer that allows this once sleepy Southern school to finally vault ahead of its better-known rivals.
As explained by Claire E. Sterk, President of Emory University, “the Permitted 200 is a logical extension of prior policies. For years, we’ve taken steps, important steps, to make Emory a place where all students feel welcome. We were the first school to introduce the Anti-bias curriculum in 1997. We supplemented that with classes on microaggression theory soon after. We followed that up with trigger warnings on all potentially offensive content in 2006. And in 2010 we created safe spaces throughout campus in which certain categories of speech were barred. Despite the fact that these were important steps forward, I think we can all agree with the benefit of hindsight they were half measures. We had failed to address the single most important thing—that a student never feel challenged or unsafe in the classroom. With this one bold stroke, Emory moves itself to the forefront of correct thought.”
Predictably, the Permitted 200 is opposed by several conservative student groups, which seek to stop the school’s efforts to be a welcoming, inclusive space. As explained by Justin Tucker, the President for Emory Students for Free Speech (ESFS): “This is another tragic step towards an Orwellian academy. I came to Emory to participate in the marketplace of ideas. Sure, free speech can be painful—like when those Nazi a-holes marched on Charlottesville. But the bedrock principle of the Bill of Rights is the freedom to engage in political and religious discourse and the Permitted 200 limits my ability to do so. And I want to point out that 6 of the words that President Sterk just used to extol the Permitted 200 aren’t on the Permitted 200. I’m shaking my head at this dangerous attempt to stop free speech. On January 16, 2019, ESFS is going to sue the snot out of Emory! ”
Asked to respond to Tucker’s tired, cliched criticism, Sterk offered the following: “limiting free speech—that old trope? First, I would hope that our students could express themselves in a way that does not intimidate their peers. Second, let me point out to you that there are 200 words in the Permitted 200 and that these 200 words can be used in an almost infinite number of permutations. In fact, 5.713384e+262 different combinations of words can be made using this list. That’s more combinations than there are atoms in the known universe. Far from limiting conversation, we’re enhancing it! And we have done it within a framework in which all students can feel safe. I don’t want to sound smug, but I think Emory has finally out-Ivied the Ivies!”