I was neither confused nor offended when I first heard the term. A Stepford student would be someone who took a heavy-handed approach to coursework. I would relate to it. In fact, the meaning of "Stepford" changed through the decades.
Ira Levin's "The Stepford Wives", which was published in September 1972, was a slap in the face to those who weren't favor of the feminist movement. The author might have sensed the sentiment of the male populace who have seen too many black-and-white movies. They would wish for a suburban home with manicured lawn and toys scattered in the middle of it. His young kids were off to school, while his wife resembled Grace Kelly. She was the perfect housewife. Levin made a name from satirical novels, which shattered the stereotypical images of American society. The case of Joanna Eberhart would suggest that the women who demanded equality were getting bored of their daily routine. The menfolk were unapologetic chauvinists. The publication of the book happened during the transition period in American society. This was the time when "yuppie" would denote a negative connotation.
A Stepford woman wouldn't carry a stigma a few decades later. It could be a matter of choice, and the economy would prompt many women to find a job. The term was generalized, such that a Stepford student could imply the loss of freedom of speech. What happened at the University of Manchester a year ago would allude to the certainty that the Stepford student culture had been around for years. It was a hot topic among my housemates, as they find it hard to believe that the students' union would be serious about a radical feminist and a right-wing provocateur. And they would call Madonna a wholesome individual.
I could have some fun
Loafing was the worst thing that would happen to me, yet I wondered if I could have a different routine. If I were more of an extrovert. If I didn't mind crowded places. If I was a restless soul. Being a Stepford student was a matter of choice. As for the incident at the University of Manchester, I thought it was a disappointing decision. The students' union may be thinking of the welfare of teenagers, whom they were supposed to know best. What could be the worst thing to happen after they heard contrary opinion? There would be lots in social media, and they couldn't do anything (to prevent it).
Perhaps Ira Levin saw the same thing. Some people won't welcome change, even if it turned out to be a good thing. In the case of the menfolk, their Stepford wives would keep them in their comfort zone. As for the women who advocated the feminist movement, they seemed earnest about it. If they could do a time travel, then they would disappoint at the images of the third millennium.
A Stepford student won't be a bad thing at all. An English major student could use it as an excuse, as unexpected things happened at the university. And it might be worse.