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Valar Qringaomis

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Microaggressions" as a way to censor peoplle

UC teaching faculty members not to criticize race-based affirmative action, call America ‘melting pot,’ and more

"One of the latest things in universities, including at University of California (where I teach) is condemning “microaggressions,” supposed “brief, subtle verbal or non-verbal exchanges that send denigrating messages to the recipient because of his or her group membership (such as race, gender, age or socio-economic status).” Such microaggressions, the argument goes, can lead to a “hostile learning environment,” which UC — and the federal government — views as legally actionable. This is stuff you could get disciplined or fired for, especially if you aren’t a tenured faculty member.

But of course this concept is now being used to suppress not just, say, personal insults or discrimination in hiring or grading, but also ideas that the UC wants to exclude from university classrooms...

Well, I’m happy to say that I’m just going to keep on microaggressing. I like to think that I’m generally polite, so I won’t express these views rudely. And I try not to inject my own irrelevant opinions into classes I teach, so there are many situations in which I won’t bring up these views simply because it’s not my job to express my views in those contexts. But the document that I quote isn’t about keeping classes on-topic or preventing presonal insults — it’s about suppressing particular viewpoints. And what’s tenure for, if not to resist these attempts to stop the expression of unpopular views?

But I’m afraid that many faculty members who aren’t yet tenured, many adjuncts and lecturers who aren’t on the tenure ladder, many staff members, and likely even many students — and perhaps even quite a few tenured faculty members as well — will get the message that certain viewpoints are best not expressed when you’re working for UC, whether in the classroom, in casual discussions, in scholarship, in op-eds, on blogs, or elsewhere. (Remember that when talk turns to speech that supposedly creates a “hostile learning environment,” speech off campus or among supposed friends can easily be condemned as creating such an environment, once others on campus learn about it.) A serious blow to academic freedom and to freedom of discourse more generally, courtesy of the University of California administration...

Another paper endorsed by the UC Office of the President defines microaggressions as “one form of systemic everyday racism.” So the UC says microaggressions are a form of racism; communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership; and can help create a hostile environment. And it says that expressing certain views is a form of racial microaggression. (By the way, UC Berkeley says this not just to administrators but also to “faculty or graduate student instructor[s].”) UC also often talks about how important campus climate is and how important diversity is, and indeed makes “contributions to diversity and equal opportunity,” such as “research … that highlights inequalities,” as a factor “in the evaluation of the candidate’s qualifications” when it comes to hiring, promotion, and appraisal.

But apparently instructors — including untenured ones — are somehow expected to feel uncensored, and free to express their ideas, including ones UC has labeled racist, aggressive, and hostile. Really?"
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