Safety first! College moves to create online microaggression reporting system

If you’re worried about the skyrocketing cost of college tuition, here’s one more reason to consider not sending the kids at all. As we’ve seen repeatedly, it’s not enough to simply mind your own business in school anymore. The most insignificant comment, gesture or even facial expression might offend someone. Before you know it, you’ve committed a microagression.

Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment.

Professor William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection brings us up to date on how the students at Ithaca College in New York are dealing with the problem. They recently voted to institute a system where student who feel that they have been … (microaggressed?) offended will be able to make use of an online tool to report the offenders.

The Ithaca College Student Government Association passed a bill March 16 to create an online system to report microaggressions, which sponsors of the bill said will create a more conducive environment for victims to speak about microaggressions.

The bill, sponsored by Class of 2018 senator Angela Pradhan, calls for the implementation of a campus-wide online system to report microaggressions to “make Ithaca College a safer, more inclusive and diverse community for all students.”

Pradhan said the online system would fill what she sees as a lack of an adequate system to report microaggressions.

“I know a lot of senators are working on microaggression stuff within their respective schools, but I felt that there was a need for something to happen schoolwide,” Pradhan said. “And if there was a concrete way to document [microaggressions] online, it would provide students a way to kind of state what’s going on.”

Of course, there are some stumbling blocks on the horizon. They want the system to allow the accusers to remain anonymous so they feel more safe in reporting any boorish behavior, but they fear that anonymity won’t be possible if the student wishes to pursue legal action. Yes… legal action. So if you turn out to be guilty of creating an unintentional environmental slight, they will be working on a way to take you to court.

To be fair, once you get off campus and into an actual courtroom there’s at least a reasonable chance that a judge and/or prosecutor will laugh the accuser out of the room when they bring up your nonverbal negative message as the reason for being there. But that’s only in an actual court. As we’ve seen in too many alleged sexual assault cases, the proceedings may never make it that far. Colleges have their own tribunals now, frequently populated with precisely the same sort of brain trust members who cooked up this microaggression reporting system, and they can throw you out of school and trash your career prospects without your ever having a chance to defend yourself before a jury of your peers.

Dear college students: You are being misled and done a terrible disservice. The day will come when you have to leave your school and some of you will actually have to go out into the world and get a job, find a place to live, and occasionally interact with real human beings. You will quickly learn that everyone else has the same right of free speech as you do and that nobody has a right not to be offended. And you will hear opinions you don’t agree with on a regular basis. Reporting them to the Assistant Dean will not be an option. And if you take a story like that to your boss you will likely wind up unemployed.

Grow up. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a crowded race and you have a very long way to go.

You’re welcome.

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