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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

College orientation: What not to say

Rutgers freshmen will have to take a course on microaggressions as part of orientation reports Lindsay Marchello in Reason. The Language Matters Campaign, organized by the university’s Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities, will teach students to avoid saying something that might offend a “marginalized” classmate.

The course consists of a Prezi presentation and some Youtube videos. It concludes by encouraging students to report an act of bias toward anyone because of their “race, religion, color, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, atypical heredity or cellular blood trait, military service or veteran status.”

The training claims micro-victims “are affected physically, cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally.”

Equating words with violence is an increasingly popular way to justify censorship, writes Marchello. “The problem with microaggressions is they are entirely subjective. One person’s microaggression is another’s rude joke.”

Or it may be another’s opinion: “America is the land of opportunity.”

Often students are told not to say “you guys” to a mixed group and not to ask “where are you from?,” lest it imply that a Latino or Asian-American student is a foreigner. Rutgers remind students that “illegal aliens” should be called “undocumented citizens.” (Citizens?) Mentioning basketball to a black male is a taboo, as is asking an Asian-American student to help with math homework.

Research doesn’t show that diversity programs are effective, argues Althea Nagai, a research fellow at the Center for Equal Opportunity, in a National Association of Scholars article. “Social justice” and diversity programs may “backfire, creating less inclusion, more polarization, and more findings of unconscious racism.”

Imagine being an 18-year-old away from home for the first time. You’re told that a casual remark could harm another student and be reported as an act of bias. Would you talk to a student who’s not in your racial/ethnic group? The safest way to avoid giving offense — just about the only way — is to socialize only with your own kind.

But microaggressions also can be nonverbal, the Rutgers training states. They include “avoiding people.” So, you’re screwed.

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