Universities Are Trying To Teach Faculty How To Spot Microaggressions

Earlier this year, University of California President Janet Napolitano invited deans and department heads to a seminar on inclusivity on campus. A large theme was how the university could better address microaggressions, the subtle comments, “slights” or “snubs” that signal bias against someone’s race, background or identity.

To better explain it, UC published a list of examples of microaggressions, and when commentators discovered it in June, they erupted in disapproval at the examples.

One UCLA professor wrote op-eds calling it “UC’s PC police.” A Los Angeles Times staff editorial criticized it as going too far. Bloomberg View columnists picked it apart as well.

UC officials declined to make anyone available for an interview, but insisted no one in the university system is “prohibited from making statements such as ‘America is a melting pot,’ ‘America is the land of opportunity,’ or any other such statement,” phrases listed among the microaggression examples.

Yet for all the criticism, the University of California didn’t come up with the list — a Columbia University researcher named Derald W. Sue did in 2007, along with several colleagues. And versions of it have been used in college diversity trainings nationwide for at least the past few years.

“I’m not sure they are advocating for banning speech,” Sue told The Huffington Post on Tuesday about the institutions that have adopted the table. “I think it’s much more educational. In other words, what are microaggressions? How do they harm individuals of color or marginalized groups? And what can we do to avoid creating misunderstandings?”

The University of Missouri used an almost identical list at a 2012 summit on diversity, part of a biannual effort by the school to improve the campus climate. A version was handed out at a professional development program at Texas —> Read More