You are here: Home / Diversity / Statement Regarding Derogatory Language

Statement Regarding Derogatory Language

The Penn State Philosophy Department is committed to the free and open exchange of ideas and arguments. We regard unrestricted intellectual exchange as central to the life of the university in general and to our discipline in particular. At the same time, we are also committed to fostering a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment for all members of our diverse community. As part of that commitment, we acknowledge the role that language plays in reinforcing and upholding relations of oppression and the real and lasting harm that derogatory language, including but not limited to racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and ableist slurs, does to the most vulnerable members of our community.

In recognition of these affirmative commitments, the Philosophy Department faculty condemns the use of derogatory language and/or hate speech at department events and in our classrooms. We strongly recommend that all participants in our events and classes use respectful, inclusive language and remain mindful of their own social positionality when they speak. The faculty is committed to ensuring positive, constructive philosophical dialogue and fostering an inclusive environment for all members of our academic community.

In the spirit of the above considerations, we specifically request that, out of respect for Black students and faculty members, non-Black members of the community refrain from vocalizing the N-word in any of its variations in department events and/or classes. This includes vocalizing the word when quoting from texts, whether those be racist texts or critical philosophy of race texts. To be clear: this request does not preclude assigning or discussing texts or sources that contain this word; it applies only to vocalizing the word in the context of lectures and discussions in classrooms and departmental events. We make this request in recognition of the specific history of this term and its capacity to harm our Black students and colleagues.