Oxford University’s Equality and Diversity Unit (EDU) releases examples of “everyday racism” in the university’s newsletter. Well meant questions, such as asking where a person was born, or not looking someone in the eye could be labeled a “racial micro-aggression.”
Students are asked not to avoid making eye contact with fellow students and to avoid “not speaking directly to people,”as these things could be seen as offensive.
The concern is that too much exposure to these inadvertent offenses could lead to “mental ill-health”.
The so-called “snowflake generation,” that seem to be populating the universities today, are perceived to be overly-sensitive to some comments and actions. The term “snowflake generation”was included among Collins Dictionary’s 2016 words of the year, and defined as “the young adults of the 2010s, viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offense than previous generations”.
In it’s Trinity term newsletter, EDU says that people who innocently offend others may be well-meaning and would be distressed to know they had done so. “But this is of little consequence if a possible effect of their words or actions is to suggest to people that they may fulfill a negative stereotype, or do not belong”, the conclude.
University of Kent’s Dr. Joanna Williams, a lecturer in higher education, feels the guidance is “completely ridiculous.” She fears students will become “hyper-sensitive”and guarded in their interactions with each other. “Instead of people seeing each other as potential friends, equals, these re-racialize academia, they force people to see each other as a person of color, they force people to be put into boxes about identity.”
“Essentially people are being accused of a thought crime,” Dr Williams said. “They are being accused of thinking incorrect thoughts based on an assumption of where they may or may not be looking.”
Universities have been criticized for coddling today’s youth, helping to create these “snowflakes.”
For example, Oxford law students were allowed to skip lectures last year when they found the course content too “distressing,” as with cases involving violent behavior.
At Cardiff Metropolitan University, university guidance dictates that “gender-neutral” terms should take the place of popular phrases such as “right-hand man” and “gentleman’s agreement.” Under its code of practice on inclusive language, those terms were banned. As well, students are asked to refrain from letting their “cultural background” affect their word choice.
“Trigger warnings” have been issued for theology students at the University of Glasgow. When studying the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, students are given the opportunity to leave if they find the content distressing.
According to The Telegraph, an Oxford University spokesman spoke in defense of the EDU. “The Equality and Diversity Unit works with University bodies to ensure that the University’s pursuit of excellence goes hand in hand with freedom from discrimination and equality of opportunity. The newsletter is one way of advising and supporting staff towards achieving these aims.”
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