“If Sarah Huckabee Sanders Can Do It, So Can We”: Vanderbilt Students Seek to Ban Most Hated Words

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

By Megan McGrath

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, newly elected governor of Arkansas and former president Donald Trump’s favorite White House official, took unprecedented steps in her first hours of governorship. On January 11th, Sanders signed an executive order banning the use of the term “Latinx” in state documents. Though it was just one of many bold actions setting the tone for her time in office, the language ban is the action most inspirational for Vanderbilt students. Not yet exhausted from complaining that their winter break was spent in Miami and not Turks and Caicos, roughly 1200 students gathered that same evening to complain about their own most hated words.

The meeting was officially held to facilitate grievances and draft a formal representative opinion. The meeting concluded with the release of a petition calling on Chancellor Daniel Diermeier to sign his own executive measures banning a selection of the “most vile words of the English language” from university documents. Students expect the bans will return campus culture to its foundational values. Said values were left unnamed, but spectators theorized them to include “egotism, conservatism and elitism.”

Bruce Dego, senior majoring in Sociology, showed particular passion at the meeting in his proposal to ban “cogent,” which he claimed was a triggering reminder of the trauma inflicted by not having a good grade simply handed to him.

“My freshman year, I took an AXLE classics course taught by this absolute bitch of a professor. I put my heart and soul into the midterm paper, but I got a fucking C+. She said my argument wasn’t ‘cogent.’ What the fuck even does ‘cogent’ mean?? Then she had the audacity to refuse my father’s Christmas gift, a 2022 WaveRunner, on the grounds of ‘attempted academic bribery’ and reported me to the Student Accountability Office. So yeah, say the word ‘cogent’ to me ONE MORE GODDAMN TIME and see what happens.” 

Allie Affluent, first year planning to major in Economics, took a stand against the word “poor.” “We should all be manifesting great things on this campus. That’s why we need to cut the word ‘poor’ from our vocabulary. If we don’t say ‘poor,’ and we don’t think ‘poor,’ then we won’t be poor. Nobody wants to be poor. Why don’t we think more ‘rich’?” 

Not all words proposed received a spot on the petition. Elia Patrick took the stand to propose “yourfatherandiaregettingadivorce,” which was shot down on the grounds of “failing to meet standards of an actual word.” Patrick declined to comment, but was spotted at Nashville International Airport inconsolable as her mother boarded a plane to Cabo with her OrangeTheory trainer. She drove away in the 2022 Jeep Wrangler her father purchased for her that day. 

By contrast, “no” received the most support. Candy Gruber, sophomore majoring in American Studies, delivered a compelling argument that concluded in a standing ovation.

“I’m tired of being told ‘no.’ ‘No, you can’t borrow my Valentino skirt.’ ‘No, you can’t have sex with my boyfriend while I’m in Physics lecture.’ ‘No, you can’t recruit English majors for your reboot of the Heaven’s Gate cult.’ Like okay, what CAN I do? I’m standing up for all of us who have zero tolerance for the word ‘no.’ We didn’t use language like that when I went to Choate and spent summers on the equestrian circuit.” Project SAFE plans to release a statement later in the week in response to this proposal. 

Students hope that this petition will be addressed speedily and are looking forward to the erasure of the terms “cogent,” “poor” and “no,” among others, from all university documents. It is unclear at this stage whether these proposals will do any good for the greater Vanderbilt community, but proponents are nothing less than thrilled about the possibility of enriching campus life. 

“If Sarah Huckabee Sanders can do it, so can we. We stand together to ban words we don’t like, and who knows what will come next? Censorship is exactly what we need to return this school to its core values,” said Dego.

  • January 19, 2023