Saturday, February 4, 2017

Learning To Be Offended By Microaggression





By Professor Doom

      The recent riots at Berkeley are no accident; we're training our college students to get upset at the silliest little things...it's no surprise they can go violently nuts when significant things are being discussed.

     But today I want to talk about tiny little things, aka microaggressions.

     A few years ago, the entire concept of microaggression was just a touch of California lunacy, and then only at the universities. Predictably, this plague has since spread across the country, and now we have students on campuses across the country being offended at the silliest things.

      Now, don’t get me wrong, student complaints should be heard, there needs to be a means for that, and there always has been. In the past, it was a harried professor serving as dean. He’d listen to the complaint, but usually blow it off. Only a serious complaint would register enough to be worthy of his precious time.

    Today our campuses are loaded down with a massive bureaucracy that has nothing better to do than deal with student complaints. A piffling complaint that would have been laughed at in the past is not laughed at today. Instead, a committee is formed, meets a few times, then schedules a meeting with the student to rehear the complaint, then meets again to discuss punishment for the professor being complained about. Later, the professor finds out he was involved in a complaint and has already been tried, convicted, and sentenced. 

      Instead of taking a few seconds to resolve by a professor paid an extra few thousand bucks to deal with complaints, complaints today are now handled by half a dozen administrators paid over $100,000 apiece to take every complaint, no matter how ridiculous, very seriously.

      Thus the explosion of the whole concept of microaggression: the “micro” tells us that, quite literally, no problem is too small to escape notice of our bloated caste of administrators, who really have nothing else to do. 

      The great part is, when the admin screws up and metes out a ridiculous punishment for a ridiculous crime…admin generates even more money for itself if the professor complains. More meetings, more re-meetings to deal with the professor daring to defend himself…it can go on for years. It’s a losing proposition for the professor, but admin make bank on this.

      I promise the gentle reader, the endless shenanigans here has something to do with the endlessly rising tuition, even as standards, for those schools that still have some, are ever falling.

     Virginia Tech has compiled a list of 50 specific microaggressions, actual student complaints about mean things professors have done to them (I do wish it were possible for professors to lodge microaggression complaints against admin…).

      Some of these complaints are quite valid, but I want to focus on the ridiculous ones, because even the most ridiculous complaint can lead to a professor losing his job.

“Don’t call yourself that,” where that refers to me calling myself disabled.


      I grant it’s a little annoying to have someone tell you what to call yourself, but in defense of the professor who committed this microaggression: every year we’re told to replace our vocabulary with at least one new word, often several. “Remedial” becomes “Developmental,” “Basic” becomes “Advanced,” “Minority” becomes “Protected,” “Disabled” becomes “Enabled,”…and much like in Office Space, any transgression results in a legion of admin checking up to make sure we got the memo.

     This complaint would normally be blown off, but I can see a professor now getting chastised for doing what we reflexively do now, just to keep our jobs.

      Here’s another microagression that should be ignored, but now will consume thousands of dollars of taxpayer/tuition money to be fully investigated:

“You don’t have all the needed paperwork, so we can’t help you with the accommodations.”


      The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates we must do everything we can to make a student with a documented problem. Some classes run 20% or more of students “disabled” in some way. Of course, helping someone who needs help is something we want to do, but there comes a time when, yeah, we’re going to ask for documentation saying you’re allowed to eat in class or whatever. 

      But it’s a microaggression now to ask students to comply with Federal law. You better believe we got the memo what to do now when a student wants something special.

“When my white professors say ‘n>>>>>’ thoughtlessly in class.”


     Here’s the thing about this complaint: no way. We all know using “that word” means instant termination, and I’ve documented it.  So, a thinking person hearing that complaint about professors (multiple) using that word thoughtlessly (is it even possible to use that word thoughtfully?) would know full well it’s a bogus complaint.

      But complaints don’t go to thinking people, they go to admin. This complaint will cause a witch hunt, and admin will seize the opportunity to investigate several professors and hire assistants to help with the investigation, causing a million dollars or more in expenses to the institution.

“Being asked to present the black perspective in a predominantly white class.”


      This complaint was presumably made by a black student, and I see his point. That said, imagine the outrage if a white student presented the black perspective! While not immediately blown off, this is the kind of complaint that could be resolved with couple of five minute conversations (faculty really shouldn’t put students on the spot like that, and it’s a bit much to ask a student to speak for all blacks, regardless of the student’s skin color).

“A non-disabled classmate viewing the R-word as just another swear word and including it in a poem.”


     I concede my ignorance at not being sure what word is being referenced here. I have no idea if the word, if it is forbidden, is not forbidden for non-disabled students…and I really think poetry should be allowed to use all the words, in any event. Please, consider all the confusion and communication issues we have now because don’t know what words can lead to instant termination.

      But I can assure you a team of admin could easily spend hours on this non-event.

“But gender is socially constructed, you don’t need to physically transition” Accept, don’t invalidate trans people’s experiences and wants for their body.


     I’m not even sure there’s a complaint here, but admin will look at this and say “we need at least a Vice President and Dean of Trans Students, if not a whole Institute for Trans Students.” More millions will be thrown away due to this non-complaint.

“She’s so bipolar.” Disabilities are not insults.


     Um, ok. Again, a 5 minute conversation could wrap this up nicely. The big problem here is the student gets to define what are insults…it’s nuts.

“Being in a room full of fellow academics and being told you speak ‘very intelligently.’ “

     Would it be less offensive if “very stupidly” was said instead? This is yet another highlight of the problem with micoaggression: you can flip the behavior being complained about, and it’s still offensive. In other words, no matter what you do, you’re insulting someone. You can’t win, and that’s a scenario which puts dollar signs in administrative eyes.

      I’m not by any means saying all student complaints are ridiculous, but the current system of investigating in massive detail every complaint, and never just telling the student “get over it” is yet another sign that our higher education system, designed for education and research, has fallen far, far away from that design goal.

     And by training our kids to get upset at insignificant concerns, they become tolerant, even permissive of riots when real issues are brought up. 

     Thus we have riots at Berkeley to keep a speaker from voicing his thoughts.