Did you ever wade into a stream, or a pond, or a slough, thinking the water might come up to your knees, or even your waist, but if it gets any deeper you are getting out? How did you react when suddenly, the bottom seemed to fall away and you were suddenly neck deep? I usually experience a brief sensation of panic as I try paddle my way to shallower water. But one time, the problem wasn’t the water, it was the mud, soft, deep and adhesive. I just mentally experienced that effect while searching the term “micro aggression”. The list of colleges with bias response teams, and examples of micro aggressions is endless. I focused on just one, university of Wisconsin, because they have so many branches.
According to an “Interrupting Bias & Hate” presentation distributed by the school’s Bias Response Team, “microaggressions” are defined as an “everyday slight, put down, indignity, or invalidation directed toward a marginalized group.” Microaggressions may include “slurs, epithets, and degrading language,” the presentation adds, and can lead to a “hostile environment or harassment if there are patterns.” The university elaborates that microaggressions can include “being forced to choose male or female when completing forms/paperwork,” “not calling someone by their preferred gender pronouns,” or unwillingness “to listen closely how to correctly to pronounce non-English names.” Examples include “America is a melting pot”; asking anyone who is non caucasian “where are you from?” With microaggressions so pervasive on campus, it’s no surprise that colleges have stepped up efforts to protect students from subliminal insults they might not even be aware of, by forming the new SWAT team–Shielding Wimps from Actually Talking teams, called Bias Response Teams, BRTs. The following is from an article ominously titled The Rise of Bias Response Teams, in The New Republic, By
“Anyone can report a ‘bias incident,’ including faculty, staff, students, as well as parents, alumni and visitors to campus. Reporters may be victims, witnesses or even third parties, and they may choose to remain anonymous. That opens the door to hoaxes. Indeed, more than 20 percent of all the bias incident reports filed at one university during a single academic year were ‘pranks,’ the investigation of which occupied a great deal of time and attention for multiple staff members and senior level administrators. We do not want our campuses overrun with eager ‘see something, say something’ student informants. Far from empowering students with the requisite skills for having difficult conversations, bias response initiatives, as a Boston College student asserted, encourage students to ask the administration to solve problems instead of solving them amongst themselves.”
“As the aforementioned Boston College student lamented, BRTs create a false, and dangerous impression that the administration can/should police speech on campus to ensure everyone is ‘comfortable.’ Much of what we teach and how we teach could come under fire with BRTs in place. They would, for instance, undermine co-author Amna’s strategic use of provocation, a pedagogical device that yields some of the best educational moments in her course. BRTs are fatally flawed. Adjudicating ‘he said, she said’ incidents is a logistical nightmare, if not downright impossible for thinly stretched administrators. What’s more, BRTs will result in a troubling silence: Students, staff, and faculty will be afraid to speak their minds, and individuals or groups will be able to leverage bias reporting policies to shut down unpopular or minority viewpoints. BRTs will substitute diktats for debate when what we need most is constant, frank conversation. By almost any measure, colleges and universities are more diverse today than they have ever been, and that’s the paradox: BRTs will turn the genuine, transformative educational power of diverse voices into a farce.” Bias Response Teams, coping events, microaggressions…..sounds like the college campus is creeping closer to a re-education camp, where “counter revolutionary tendencies” were first dealt with via self criticism sessions and the insufficiently repentant dug their own graves. Am I exaggerating for effect? My next post will focus on an extreme example….extreme now, but look at what used to be extreme, which is now assumed.