The people who run our universities are at war with personal offense and emotional discomfort – or so they will tell you. In reality, they are among the most offensive people on the planet. At least that’s what I have concluded now that my university has officially started to incorporate “microaggression” training into freshman student orientation.
I recently found out about our microaggression training when a freshman student came by my office for an introduction. Her father has been reading my columns for years. When she decided to study criminology he insisted that his daughter come to UNC-Wilmington so she could take my classes. I guess dad wanted her to have at least one conservative professor while she was in college and I was the only one they could locate.
At the end of the student’s visit, I encouraged her to come back if she ever had trouble with a professor in the classroom - or if she had trouble with an administrator outside the classroom. That’s when she told me about a strange experience she had in the freshman orientation. It came at the hands of a university employee who was teaching students new and innovative ways of becoming offended.
Apparently, despite the skyrocketing cost of education, UNCW has enough money to hire a microaggression expert who sits down in student orientation and explains the concept to all incoming freshman. Come to think of it, I am surprised that the “expert” cannot see how offensive the term freshmen is to people who aren’t men - or those who simply have not yet “chosen” a gender.
This year during freshman orientation, the “expert” told students to write down instances where someone had offended them with a microaggression. My reader’s daughter – whose name I have omitted to protect her from macroaggression at the hands of the Dean of Students - had a hard time thinking of something. After a few minutes, she recalled that a male had once referred to her as a “stupid blonde chick.” So she wrote it down, not realizing that the microaggression “expert” was going to have students read them aloud in front of the entire orientation group.
When my reader’s blonde daughter read her microaggression to the crowd the diversity “expert” attempted to show empathy by responding roughly as follows: “It must have been deeply hurtful to you that he assumed you were female.”
I hope everyone caught that. If not, please have another cup of coffee and reread the last paragraph. The student was obviously offended by being called “stupid.” But the microaggression “expert” was claiming there was another basis for being offended – namely, having people assume your gender before you inform them of your “gender identity” preference.
It is worth noting that the blonde student stands about 5’3” and probably weighs no more than 100 pounds. She doesn’t look like she’s ever been to an Indigo Girls concert. In fact, she’s so obviously feminine that even a blind man could tell she’s not a man – or even a woman pretending to be one.
This process of teaching students new ways to be offended is dangerous. In fact, it has two obvious and specific disadvantages for the broader educational environment. But just in case there are any stupid blondes (or microaggression experts) reading this column I will go ahead and state them in bold letters:
- Encouraging micro victimhood makes professors reticent to discuss controversial issues in front of students. Those of us who have to teach this new chronically-offended generation are obviously the ones who suffer most from the microaggression movement. The problem has become so pronounced that comedians like Jerry Seinfeld are no longer willing to set foot on a college campus – even for an hour-long stand up comedy show. Imagine what it’s like for a criminology professor teaching nine hours a week in front of scores of students while covering controversial topics like rape prevention and hate crime legislation. Ask the students to be offended and you shall receive complaints.
- Encouraging micro victimhood makes students less willing to participate in classroom discussions. As intimidating as it can be for professors most do have the protection of tenure. But the same cannot be said of students. Most want to speak up in class discussions. But they – perhaps better than anyone else – know how hypersensitive their peers can be. Doubtlessly, they will often keep their views to themselves rather than risking a call from the Dean of Students.
In addition to those broad problems (please excuse the potentially sexist overtones of the word “broad”) there is also the occasional problem of actually offending students by telling them they should be offended. For example, telling a 5’3”, 100 pound blonde that her gender is not obvious and she could pass for a man might actually cause offense. That’s not something most blonde chicks want to hear.
So why do universities teach about micro aggression given that a) universities are supposed to be the quintessential marketplace of ideas and, b) legitimizing micro aggression chills both professor and student speech? The reason is twofold:
- Ideology. University administrators are not ignorant of free speech. They are hostile toward it. The reason for the hostility toward debate is that they know they dominate the universities. As far as they are concerned the debates are over, they won them all, and it is time to proceed to the implementation stage. Who cares if an occasional professor gets into hot water for a classroom comment? He’s likely to be an aging conservative – or perhaps a liberal dissenter who does not yet realize that liberalism has been replaced with the new campus orthodoxy of illiberal leftism. Dealing with micro-aggressed students will merely expedite the dissident’s path to retirement.
- Money. The whole concept of microaggression is part of a larger effort to expand the definition of harassment. In the process, universities are able to report they are doing something about the “problem” in order to satisfy the federal government that its state institutions are in compliance with Title IX. It’s like paying one janitor to dump trash on the quad, paying another to pick it up, and having a third employee file a report outlining their initiatives to clean up the campus. In the end, the reports are used to satisfy the feds who give them money to expand the size and scope of the state bureaucracy.
In short, our universities are no longer marketplaces of ideas. They have become more like fiefdoms. Actually, that is too kind. They have become intellectual whorehouses where rights of free expression are bartered away for money. Regardless of the metaphor you choose, the motivations of the unprincipled bureaucrats who run them are so obvious that they are impossible to deny. No further elaboration is really necessary. In fact, even a stupid blonde chick could understand what the whores of diversity are up to.
In closing, I hope I will be forgiven for ending one sentence with a preposition. I guess it is better than ending all debate with a proposition.