“Forefathers”, “mankind” and “sportsmanship” are also on the list of 34 words and phrases to be avoided as part of efforts to “embrace cultural diversity” / Christopher Futcher

Academics have criticised the ban as an 'insulting attack on free speech'

A UK university has been accused of censoring free speech for banning phrases such as “right-hand man” and “gentleman’s agreement” in favour of more inclusive, gender neutral language. 

Cardiff Metropolitan University’s revised code of practice states more appropriate terms should be used where possible, adding that students should not allow their “cultural background” to affect their choice of words on campus.

“Forefathers”, “mankind” and “sportsmanship” are also on the list of 34 words and phrases to be avoided as part of efforts to “embrace cultural diversity” by the university.

Students and staff could face disciplinary procedures if they fail to adhere to the language policy, but some have accused Cardiff Metropolitan of restricting their free speech, labelling the policy an “insulting” attempt to dictate their choice of words.

Dr Joanna Williams, an academic freedom advocate and University of Kent lecturer, told The Telegraph the ban was “unnecessary”. 

“The idea that in a university people need to be dictated to in this way is really insulting to students and academics, we should be able to cope with words.

“These words have evolved over a long period of time and they don’t have sexist associations.”

The policy also dictates that the phrases “homosexual” and “heterosexual” should not be used as they are “laden with the values of a previous time”. 

“Referring to ‘same-sex’ and ‘other-sex’ relationships is a good option,” the document reads.  

“Nobody likes being lumped together in a group, so try to avoid generalised terms such as ‘the disabled’, ‘the blind’,” it continues. 

“’Disabled people’ is preferable to ‘the disabled’ or ‘people with disabilities’ as it emphasises that the people are disabled by a society which doesn’t accommodate them.

“Don’t be too anxious about the use of language, though,” the policy adds. 

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“Blind people do use terms like ‘see you later’ and being too careful can make conversation difficult for both parties.” 

A report published last month detailing UK universities’ no-platforming and safe-space policies found nine in 10 institutions to be restrictive of free speech.

Analysis by Spiked magazine suggested campus censorship had increased steadily over the past three years – with a growing number of institutions actively clamping down on ideas, literature and guest speakers that are not in keeping with their own values.

A spokesperson for Cardiff Metropolitan University said of the new policy: “The University is committed unreservedly to the principle of academic freedom within the law. 

“It is also committed to providing an environment where everyone is valued and treated with dignity and respect. These two commitments are cornerstones of academic life at the University.

“The Code of Practice on Using Inclusive Language sets out a broad approach to promoting fairness and equality through raising awareness about the effects of potentially discriminatory vocabulary. 

“In particular, it includes some suggestions to support gender equality; these are consistent with other guidance (e.g., British Sociological Association’s information on Equality and Diversity).”

Cardiff Metropolitan University's Guide to Inclusive Language:

Term – Suggested alternative
"Best man for the job" – Best person for the job
"Businessman/woman" –  Businessperson, manager, executive
"Chairman/woman" – Chair, chairperson, convenor, head
"Charwoman, cleaning lady" – Cleaner
"Craftsman/woman" – Craftsperson, craft worker
"Delivery man" – Delivery clerk, courier
"Dear Sirs" – Dear Sir/Madam (or Madam/Sir)
"Fireman" – Fire-fighter
"Forefathers" – Ancestors, forebears
"Foreman/woman" – Supervisor, head juror
"Gentleman’s agreement" – Unwritten agreement, agreement based on trust
"Girls" (for adults) – Women
"Headmaster/mistress" – Head teacher
"Housewife" – Shopper, consumer, homemaker (depends on context)
"Layman" – Lay person
"Man" or "mankind" – Humanity, humankind, human race, people
"Man" (verb) eg man the desk – Operate, staff, work at
"Man in the street", "common man" – Average/ordinary/typical citizen/person – but is there such a person?
"Man-hour" – Work-hour, labour time
"Man-made" – Artificial, manufactured, synthetic
"Manpower" – Human resources, labour force, staff, personnel, workers, workforce
"Miss/Mrs" – Ms unless a specific preference has been stated – though its common not to use titles at all these days
"Policeman/woman" – Police Officer
"Right-hand man" – Chief assistant
"Salesman/girl/woman" – Sales assistant/agent/clerk/representative/staff/worker
"Spokesman/woman" – Spokesperson, representative
"Sportsmanship" – Fairmess, good humour, sense of fair play
"Steward/ess" – Airline staff, flight attendant, cabin crew
"Tax man" – Tax officer/inspector
"Waitress" – Waiter, server
"Woman doctor" (or feminine forms of nouns eg actress, poetess) – Doctor (actor, poet etc)
"Working man", "working mother/wife" – Wage-earner/taxpayer/worker
"Workman" – Worker/operative/trades person
"Workmanlike" – Efficient/proficient/skilful/thorough

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