Sinclair Community College Still Very Wary of Signs

Remember Sinclair Community College, the school that banned signs at protests because of 9/11 and Virginia Tech and stuff?

They're still easily upset by signs.

This time, signs threaten not a new violent apocalypse, but prejudice. According to some sources, Sinclair demanded that on-campus construction workers cease work until they removed offensive "Men Working" signs.

Truly this is the sort of learning, growing experience that only the modern academy can provide: people who regulate sign content for a living telling people who build things for a living what to do.

After this incident, Sinclair's director of public information Adam Murka told Fox News that the college has a 'deep commitment to diversity' and takes it 'quite seriously.'

Murka added: 'While it may not have been necessary to suggest work be stopped, we stand by our commitment to providing an environment that is inclusive and non-discriminatory.'

They're certainly not discriminating against ridiculous people.

Hat tip: Craig Mazin.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. says

    Why do people keep sending their kids here? Stop funding the college, stop sending kids there, stop doing business with the college.

    I propose a united front against absolute stupidity.

    I do find it ironic that by trying not to offend anyone, they end up offending everyone.

  2. C. Ellis says

    I say colleges get a provision that everyone does X hours of community service, with a mandate on a fixed amount of manual labor. After a few hours, I think no one is going to give a damn what the sign says.

  3. says


    This whole gender sensitivity thing has gone metastatic, at a growing cost to the English language. Of course, when it reaches this point it no longer has a thing to do with genuine tolerance and everything to do with officious, sniveling dipshits with too much time on their hands trolling for grievous, and often vicarious, butthurt. We now have an idiot spokesman (yup, Murka, I just called you that, so suck on it) for a college redefining discrimination to include the ostentatious offense taken by a tiny, noisy minority of purposely maladaptive losers. It's no wonder that so many people who fully support equal opportunity for both genders, often so deeply that chauvinistic restrictions on women's employment and civic engagement never occur to them except as reactionary absurdities, refuse to call themselves feminists. It's because this is the kind of sniveling idiocy that feminism has come to mean in the popular mind. It has come to mean stupid condescension from the most childish, intellectually stunted kind of adult, not the proposition that qualified and competent women should be free to seek work on an equal footing as, say, cops or skilled tradesmen.

    These snits over English linguistic vestiges seem to be undertaken from a position of calculated, studied ignorance. If I say, "Sarah Palin is a commercial fisherman," anyone with a lick of sense will understand that my point is that she fishes commercially, not that there is something unfeminine about her or that she doesn't have female sexual anatomy. Historically, fishing was done overwhelmingly by men, and the practical old Englishmen (about half of them women) who came up with the terms for such trades saw no reason not to describe a man who fished as a fisherman. These days, more women than before work on deep-sea fishing boats, but the old term prevails among people who haven't had their brains scrambled by academia, including the women manning (that one's for you again, Murka) deep-sea fishing boats. Among normal people there is nothing worse than mild surprise and embarrassment to learn that a presumably male fisherman turns out to be a woman. It takes real effort to unlearn this common sense.

    Similarly, if I say, "Lynn Majors was a nurse," many people would reasonably assume based on Majors' heavily female profession and commonly female name that he is a woman. I know otherwise, but that's just due to my arguably excessive fund of knowledge about serial murderers. It's always the male nurses who do that kind of thing, as my fellow Pennsylvanian Charles Cullen can attest. The only people who really get worked up about residual gender presumptions in nursing and the use of the term "male nurse" to describe male nurses (notwithstanding my cherrypicking probably the two worst specimens in American history) are administrators.

    And therein lies the rub. The shit flows uphill, or, as I sometimes like to think of it, the less substantial fractions rise to the top of the barrel. The kind of people who seek administrative employment are exactly the wrong people for the job because they prefer being meddlesome and useless to doing reputable, productive work. Nursing and academia both have particularly thick infestations of shitty administrators. I tend to doubt that Adam Murka would rather teach.

    A few years ago, my Alma Mater's own peabrained Murka types decided that the term "freshman" was hostile to women, so they replaced it with "first-year." It apparently didn't occur to them that "sophomore" might be hostile to the callow know-it-alls described by the latter term, and the junior and senior designations remained as well, so the foolish suggestion that the change in nomenclature brought us more in line with European universities was rather specious. At the time that the school's freshmen were dropped into the Memory Hole in favor of the new wimmin-friendly term, practically no one in the student body other than the administrative suck-ups gave a damn. Better yet, the school was in the midst of a quiet campaign to restore gender parity to its student body, which had gotten to be as much as 56% female.

  4. Jb says

    This one has an obvious solution. The workers stop, and no construction or repair project is ever completed at Sinclair College ever again. If the college complains to the construction company, the company references this incident.

  5. Oomph says

    I assume that Men At Work's seminal hit "Down Under" is also strictly forbidden from being played.

  6. ChimpZilla says

    If it weren't a community college, John, I'd answer that many who send their kids there might be the weak-willed types who demand this sort of "political correctness".
    Given that it's a community college, it's even simpler. They keep both tuition and admission standards low to capture students who are either not ready for a 4 year university, or want to minimize their total education costs (and plan to transfer to a 4 year university). Also, the college is public, so it does receive state funding, making it even harder to just stop doing business with it and forcing it to go away.

  7. C. S. P. Schofield says

    In my (admittedly limited) experience "Men At Work" signs are usually posted as matters of safety. Given the regulation-happy way this society deals with safety issues, I assume that construction companies are required by law to post such signs, and that the content of said signs is probably dictated by regulation also. Can anyone confirm or refute this?

  8. Josh C says

    Hopefully, this is solved by a change order, so the college pays for the privilege of being silly. Everyone wins then.
    (Except common sense. Common sense still loses.)

  9. Valerie says

    Yes, as a woman I know the most important part of gender equality has to do with the wording on signs.

    I also resent that the color orange has been appropriated by the patriarchy when everyone knows that orange is the color of the earth goddess whom these "men at work" were symbolically raping by penetrating her with their so-called "tools."

    That said, I'd still send my kid there if I lived nearby and he/she was not ready for college or I lacked the funds to pay for a 4 year school. Some hills aren't worth dying for.

  10. says

    "After this incident, Sinclair's director of public information Adam Murka told Fox News that the college has a 'deep commitment to diversity' and takes it 'quite seriously.'"

    So seriously that they make a joke out of it.

  11. Mercury says

    Well, was the female employee who "took issue with the “Men at Work” sign" working on the construction crew (i.e. the set of persons to which the sign was drawing attention)…or not?

    If she was part of the construction crew she has a (small) point, if not she has nothing because the sign is accurately describing the upcoming (to drivers) situation.

    If it is decided that the sign should be more comprehensive (at the expense of risk minimizing brevity) then the appropriate text should be: MEN WORKING, ONE UNRELATED WOMAN IN A SEPARATE LOCATION COMPLAINING AND ALSO THE SKY IS BLUE

  12. El Perro Loco says

    Will you people PLEASE learn some real English! NOUNS have gender. People have SEX. Yes, I'm aware of the ha-ha moment in that sentence. I love reading Popehat, and quite enjoy the comments. I, too, abhor Political Correctness, especially when taken to extremes. I am SO SICK of seeing the incorrect word "gender" thrown about everywhere – both officically and unofficially. DOG BITE IT, the correct word IS "sex". I am of the male sex, NOT gender! The worst part of it all is that I have watched "gender" being used incorrectly in its infancy, and now it has grown into a monster. Could I, I would do a "HULK SMASH!!!" to the "g" word, and you would NEVER hear from it Again! Alas, I cannot!

  13. says

    I'd be curious to know if there were in fact women on that construction crew. If it was all men, then why would they care if it said "Men at Work" in the first place.

  14. thomas says

    I'm sorry, I don't get it. What's ridiculous about replacing a "Men Working" sign with a "Construction Zone" sign? It looks from photographs of the incident (found on a clubadventist forum after a brief Google search) that work was actually being carried out on a Sinclair College building. It stands to reason that the College would have been paying for the work, and if it wants to ask the workers to stop and replace the sign, it's fully within its rights to do so.

    Are any of you actually being harmed by this? Do attempts to get rid of gendered language* really impact your life in any way at all?

    I'm afraid I don't understand what has you so worked up.

  15. says

    @thomas – It's a minor thing, but you seem to be missing the principle of the ridiculousness of the scenario and the request. It's not so much about the particular incident, it's about the ridiculous extreme this college has gone to, now and in the past, to avoid offending people, which despite their best efforts, ends up offending people. It's a beef with the growing trend of "freedom of speech" being translated as "freedom to not be offended". That's what people are miffed about.

    Would it be smart if they had used a Construction Zone sign to begin with, sure, absolutely, it accurately states what's happening; however, the college nit-picking about a sign that they claim offends women (which is absurdly stupid) is pretentious, frivolous, condescending, and moronic. People who run companies and schools in that manner will end up making more enemies than friends, which is ironic, given that they want everyone to get along and love them for being so "progressive".

  16. Connie says

    Women (oh wait, she probably thinks of herself as a womyn) like this drive me crazy. GET THE FECK OVER IT. It's not directed at YOUR or WOMEN as a personal attack. By being personally offended by little use of a gender in everyday language you are cheapening the real fight against wage and political inequality between men and women. Oh, wait. Males and females. Oh, wait, XX and XY chromosome'd individuals.

  17. Sarah says

    My thought process last time I saw one of those signs:

    1. "Huh. I'm surprised they still use those signs, instead of 'People Working' or something like that."

    2. "I wonder if any of the window-washers working here are female. I doubt it."

  18. Stacey says

    GAH! I consider myself a hardcore Feminist and even I think this is just stupid. It's a construction sign! They're pre-made most of the time!

  19. AlphaCentauri says

    If it was so important to them, it should have been specified on the RFP they sent out soliciting bids. "Signs displayed at construction areas will use gender-neutral language such as 'Construction Zone' rather than "Men at Work.'" It's unreasonable to inconvenience the contractor when it was their own oversight.

  20. Grifter says

    1. Anyone who complains about gendered language and while calling themself a feminist annoys me with their hypocrisy (I know, the quote is "deep commitment to diversity", but it's a pet peeve of mine).

    2. I wish that, rather than the "womyn" concept that Connie reminded me of and which grates on my eyes like nails on a chalkboard do my ears, the politically-correct crowd had instead brought back "Were" as the term for "person of the male persuasion" and attempted to put "man" back on gender-neutral footing.

    3. On that note, I wonder why nobody complains about the inherent sexism of the term "werewolf" (Or other were-animal)?

  21. StrangeOne says

    @AlphaCentauri – But, if they preemptively deal with a problem how will they get to complain about it afterwards? After all these incidences it's fairly obvious they have no commitment to diversity, because things like this keep happening.

    Honestly I think all of this stems from one or two attention whores within the college making mountains out of molehills into their full time job. Actual diversity training requires hours of tedious instruction with people, most of whom have the common sense to understand these issues by now. It's much simpler to point at a sign and write an angry letter about it.

    Also if anyone here is familiar with community colleges you know its easier to get a union dockworker fired than to get rid of someone from those campuses. I guarantee 99% of the staff look at these issues, roll their eyes, and think "so and so is up to it again".

  22. Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat says

    @John Ammon. You cannot ever stop offending these people. Their entire world view requires that they find offense. Whatever concession is made, they'll be off to find another grievance, until we arrive at the ridiculousness above.

  23. Kreshon says

    I am going to assume that Sinclair is not that stupid that you fabricated this story.
    Otherwise I may have to give up.

  24. Dirigible says

    I don't know about America, but in Australia such signs are regulated. Under a particular circumstance, you will have to put up certain specific signs and only exactly those signs will do (Usually the Men At Work pictorial, as well as a Temporary speed limit or a Pedestrian Detour).

    In short, there isn't another sign that could be put up to replace it with.

  25. Chris R. says

    I say we all wear full body suits that make us indistinguishable from one another and call each other gender neutral terms. It'll work.

  26. Tarrou says

    "Of course, when it reaches this point it no longer has a thing to do with genuine tolerance and everything to do with officious, sniveling dipshits with too much time on their hands trolling for grievous, and often vicarious, butthurt. "

    This requires no improvement, so I shall merely reiterate.

    "I wonder what's next, the mascot being changed to the Sinclair HuMAN Being?"

    You fucking racist. I mean sexist. Whatever. My multicultural sensibilities do not allow the use of those letters in that order.

    Of course, if we lived in a just world, the person who complained would be struck and paralyzed by a car travelling through the work zone too quickly due to the lack of a sign.

  27. Tyler M. says

    I'm surprised at the overwhelming negative reaction. The admin who suggested the change (or the admin who defended it) have been called "meddlesome and useless" and "attention whores," and one commenter said that in a "just world" they would be "struck and paralyzed by a car."

    But I think the vast majority of comments miss the point, along with Ken's original post. They all assume that the admin who saw this was somehow deeply personally offended and launched into a foaming-at-the-mouth feminist rant. I see no evidence of that in either of the reports. (I think we can all agree–as the school now does–that asking that work be stopped was an overreaction.) But saying that something is sexist is far different than saying it is offensive.

    This is especially true when the topic is gender-neutral nouns and pronouns. The subtle sexism of using male-gendered language to denote both sexes doesn't come from the offense it causes. And no one would seriously claim that the person who chose the sign's language was "sexist" in any meaningful sense. It comes from the fact that these conventions have become so enmeshed in our culture as to be almost unnoticeable. And yet they convey a certain hierarchy: men are included, women are not. To the extent that we now take notice of the phrase "a judge should not express his own view of the evidence to the jury," and think it should be revised to be gender-inclusive is, in my view, a good thing. Even though I'm not offended when I read it.

    I'm also surprised that the lawyers commenting here seem to have so little respect for the power of language. By calling this "ridiculous" or "silly," we say language doesn't matter. In fact, of course, it shapes society in ways both obvious and subtle.

  28. says

    Tyler M., the report that the school asked construction to stop pending changing the sign is confirmed by the language of the school's statement to the media about it.

    The notion that construction should be halted — that people should stop working — whilst the nomenclature of a sign is revised to modern tastes is ludicrous. Had the school dropped a polite note to the construction company, I doubt it would be noticed.

  29. says

    @Tyler M – The notion of "gender neutral" wording is stupid. As someone said previously, "Construction Ahead" would have been much more succinct and avoids any unnecessary reference to either sex, since it's really extraneous to the purpose of the sign. However, what most people here are finding absolutely ridiculous, is the Schools grab for attention by making a big deal, and as Ken said, asking that everything come to a screeching halt, just to change a stupid sign.

  30. Tyler M. says

    Ken, it is of course true that construction actually was stopped, and that the school has confirmed that. My comment doesn't suggest otherwise, and I agree that stopping construction was "ludicrous." I only pointed out that the school has since indicated that stopping construction was unnecessary (I used the word overreaction), which cuts against the implication that the school is on a radical quest to rid the world of gendered-language at any cost. After reflection, the school moderated its reaction, a sign of reasonableness in my book.

    John, I've explained why I disagree with your opinion that gender neutral language is stupid. I also disagree with the idea that what upsets people the most is that the school stopped construction to change the sign. You must be reading different comments than I am.

  31. Oomph says

    @Tyler – From the clubadventist forum:

    "They eventually (after three meetings with this woman) had to take the sign down in order to resume work"

    "Statement from president of crane company.

    "Early on the second morning of work D.B., the foreman managing the project for our customer DK, received a phone call from JF, the Sinclair employee in charge of the project. J told Db that we needed to stop all work immediately until the “sexist” sign we had set up on the sidewalk was replaced. After a brief conversation it was determined that the sign in question was the “Men Working” sign being used by Jcrane and the offended party was none other than JF's boss. Doug Bush and our foreman, MP initially thought it was a prank or joke, so they and the crew continued working. Soon JF arrived on site and frantically made it clear that this was no joke, we would not be allowed to work until the sign was replaced.

    M and D reasoned that a meeting with — —— was in order and asked J to join them. He declined, stating that he cared more about his retirement than standing up to ——. The meeting didn’t go well, M and D were told in no uncertain terms that they were sexist bigots and their sign was offensive to all. Furthermore “you work for me and you’ll do as I say, or else”. She yelled at and berated them for quite some time. M’s words were “I’ve never seen a woman talk like that, she just seemed evil”. D’s were “we’re working for the devil herself (himself)”.

    Faced with the prospect of working with her for a few months, D drove back to DK’s construction office, turned in his keys and truck and quit. A man in his late fifties with over twenty years in the Pipefitters Union, this woman was the end of his career.""

  32. says

    And there you have it Tyler. What Oomph quoted. That is why we're all incensed, no one should be able to act like that or bully people around based on such frivolity.

    Additionally, who could ever respect someone who wouldn't stand up to his own boss' ridiculous antics. It's shameful and indicates that the person lacks any backbone, let alone scruples.

  33. Tyler M. says

    Oomph and John, you seem very eager to prove a point that I have no quibble with. I never defended the way the school initially went about its objection, except to say that they have now effectively recognized that they were in the wrong.

    My comment defends the objection itself: the claim that we should favor a shift to gender-inclusive (or neutral, take your pick of words) language.

  34. says

    @Tyler M. – I think "gender-neutral" is silly and frivolous on the face of it.

    However, I think a tidy compromise is just eliminating any kind of gender from the equation when it's possible. "Men at Work" = "Construction", Businessman = Professional, etc.

  35. Oomph says

    You said "They all assume that the admin who saw this was somehow deeply personally offended and launched into a foaming-at-the-mouth feminist rant. I see no evidence of that in either of the reports"… So I gave you evidence of how she was apparently perceived by the people involved… "M and D were told in no uncertain terms that they were sexist bigots and their sign was offensive to all".

  36. Tyler M. says

    You'll note that the statement you quote from appears in neither of the reports (and no actual report I've read). The claim that "M and D were told in no uncertain terms that they were sexist bigots" is an interpretation of the meeting posted by a member of an online forum and attributed, presumably, to a private exchange with the owner. No reporting that I'm aware of has contained allegations that the administrators used that sort of language to refer to the workers.

    But even if the characterization were correct, I've already said (now for the fourth time) that I don't defend the school's actions. I've already called them ludicrous, and if this is true, I'd go with "bullying," "abusive," "stupid," etc. I'll repeat that I'm not, and never was, defending the administrator's actions (number five).

    I responded to the outpouring of comments calling a preference for gender-neutral language stupid. No one seems to care to talk about that now, despite it being far more interesting than sniping over things about which we agree.

  37. says

    @Tyler M. – I don't think you're going to get a discussion going about how right or wrong the gender-neutral language issue is. I think it's mostly personal preference at this point.

    It's important to you, it's not important to me. The end.

    The point of this story is not whether gender-neutral language is good or bad, it's how the situation was handled by the idiots at the School, that's why the comments have centered around that aspect.

  38. Tyler M. says

    The comments have not focused on the reaction much at all (yours have more than most, John), at least until our exchange.

    Many have considered this a problem of people being personally offended by the "Men at Work" sign. They are right to suggest this would be a bad argument–appeasing thin-skinned people is not necessarily a good reason to alter familiar writing conventions. I tried to point out that offending people is not the best argument for gender-inclusive language. (It may be in some contexts, though. Brian Garner recommends it in legal writing on the basis that gendered language has no upside, and the potential downside of turning off a reader who prefers neutrality.)

    But you may be right. For those who are indifferent to the issue, it is not a particularly interesting discussion.

  39. Orv says

    I pretty much agree with Tyler M. I don't get incensed about it, and don't make a fuss about it, but I think the constant use of male pronouns as generic contributes to subconscious gender bias. It's essentially a form of cultural erasure of women; saying "man" started out as gender-neutral isn't really correct, because that usage comes from an era when people who weren't male simply *didn't matter*. Women were essentially chattel at the time.

    I'm reminded of how, in the Old Testament, Lot's wife is never named. As Borat said, "she no have name because she GIRL." ;)

  40. princessartemis says

    Tyler M., for what it's worth, I'm seeing what you appear to be seeing in the comments thread.

  41. Tarrou says

    "Cultural erasure of women"???? I do hope those are the drugs talking, and you'll share. Quick, offhand, give me ten or fifteen names of the men who fell at Orleans in 1428? No? How about Joan of Arc? That ring any bells? Can we now talk about how anything that doesn't specifically reference males is contributing to the "cultural erasure of men"? What twaddle.

  42. gramps says

    I'm waiting… where is the authenticated, unredacted transcript of the Foreman's (can we still say that?) departing monolog? That would be something to behold. There was probably a lot of "gender neutral" language there, I am certain.

    I, for one, have no more questions about how all those students (?) that made up the occupy protests got to be the way they were, what with yet another demonstration of what kind of people are running the higher education business these days.

  43. Angstela says

    I find I must stand with Tyler M, Orv, and princessartemis. Defaulting to male to include everyone isn't usually going to cause me to foam at the mouth (yet, but I do get progressively more irritated by it as time goes on). I am very conscious of it, however, and it would be great to see people stop doing it.

    It does send the message — and not a subtle one — that "male" is the default, the norm, and that anyone who isn't male is abnormal or an outsider by comparison.

    I really doubt that so many men would consider it non-issue of they were generically to casually as "gals", if signs only said, "Women Working" regardless of the make-up of the work force, or if they were called "she" as a default when someone wasn't sure if they were male or female.

    Just because a bunch of actual men decided a long time ago that it's perfectly normal to refer to any group of people as "men" or any individual as "he", regardless of their actual gender doesn't mean it needs to stay that way forever — or that women need to be OK with it.

  44. says

    @Angstela – I certainly think that if there's a sign that says "Men at Work" and there are women working, that's a silly sign to you, but if it is all men working, doesn't it then seem quite appropriate? As with all things, rationality and context are key :P

  45. Angstela says

    @John Ammon Perhaps, but we don't know whether there were women on the construction crew. Rationally, since women are more than half of the population, perhaps the sign should default to "Women at work" then we can change it to "Folks at work" if some men are indeed found to be on the crew (though I'd like to get official rulings — no just claiming you're a man now just to get the sign changed!).

  46. princessartemis says

    @John Ammon

    Ma'am, I haven't an issue in the world with a sign that says "Men At Work" if, indeed, only men are working. I did, however, note, as Tyler M. did, a good few of the women present (such as Ms. Torrou and Ms. Roth) getting the vapors at the very idea that anyone would have an issue with referring to women as men, rather than commenting on the meat of the post, as you did, which is the overreaction to a sign by a school.

    I wanted to let Tyler know they were not alone in seeing that trend in the comments.

  47. Tarrou says

    Half the general population perhaps, but surely you don't contend that they are over half the construction worker population? Because I have countervailing evidence.

    Nine percent. Certainly not nothing, but if one were to characterize the sex of the "average" construction worker, one does not need to think too long before coming to the conclusion that "man" is more likely to be correct than "woman". If the profession is elementary teaching, that is reversed, but of course that sort of basic common sense is far over the heads of those educated in victimography and professional whinging.

  48. says

    I do find the "Men at Work" sign to be incredibly vague, I sort of wonder how it's been used so long. Signs like "Road Work" and "Construction Ahead" are much more accurate. As a device for communicating important information, "Men at Work" seems lacking.

  49. says

    @El Perro Loco For what it's worth, "gender" is not used solely to refer to grammatical gender, but also to the social roles associated with sex. This becomes very important when discussing, e.g., transsexuals, who may be of a particular (genetic) sex but don't wish to assume the gender (social role) associated with it.

  50. Jill says

    I think the school is pathetic. It's a sign. Who gives a crap? Women (and I am one) are all too touchy. Like it or not it is a gender rule in English if you want to be picky and again who cares??? Grow up for goodness sakes, go about your business and thank the MEN who were working at the school doing their job. Men don't get enough kudos in this day and age anymore as it is with all the TV shows and whiny nagging women. Leave them alone, stay out their way and Let them do their job. I find it highly offensive that we, as free people, have our free speech censored every time we turn around simply because someone's feelings got hurt (usually a female!!). Grow up already. How about giving free speech a chance once again?!!! How about THAT?!!