The New School, a university in New York City, has published a guide on avoiding microaggressions.
The university defines microaggressions as "brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or not, that communicate a hostile, derogatory, or negative slight or insult toward a targeted group."
"Microaggression is powerful and insidious and can be as damaging as 'explicit' aggression," the guide reads.
One of the guidelines involves the size of classroom seats. Most are too small for many people, resulting in embarrassment, The New School says.
Other "hurtful experiences" include failing to ask for preferred gender pronouns and lack of gender studies and/or ethnic studies as majors. Choosing "conventionally thin and conventionally beautiful" leads in school plays is also discriminatory, the guide says.
Other microaggressions take place outside the classroom, such as sitting far away from a homeless person on a subway car or holding a Social Justice Committee meeting in a place wheelchairs can't get to.
Here's a list of what The New School considers common examples of microaggressions in a academic setting:
- Courses and curricula that only offer dominant group perspectives, such as western or European artists or others who are primarily Caucasian as the basis for introductory art classes; lack of gender studies and/or ethnic studies as majors; limited course offerings of social justice related topics
- Faculty and classmates do not ask for gender pronouns, and mis-identify people
- Feeling tokenized in classrooms when specific subject matters are raised (i.e. the one Black student is expected to speak for all Black people)
- Professors choose very expensive books and materials for classes and may not consider the limitations of lower income students by making copies available in the library, etc.
- Being called “overly sensitive” when addressing a microaggression
- Bathrooms and locker rooms are labelled Male or Female, and Trans* and/or gender nonconforming folks don't feel safe or comfortable in either
- Seats in the classroom / auditorium / office are too small for many people
- Dress forms in your fashion program are only a size 6 or smaller. Professors are dismissive of a student's interest in designing clothes for people of more diverse body types.
- Students cast as the lead in school plays or dance shows, and models chosen for school fashion shows are all conventionally thin and conventionally beautiful.
- Bodies with different abilities are not considered in class topics or
- Food sold in the cafeteria does not include options for those with limited food budgets.
- A roommate does not give permission for a same sex partner to sleep over in a shared dorm but has their opposite sex partner sleep over.
- Professors and university staff, especially those in positions of power, are not representative of a diverse range of identities (i.e. they are mostly white, male, straight, cisgender, etc.).
“Little do we realize that experiencing oppression in this manner, even though seemingly small or ‘micro,’ is frustrating, fatiguing, and takes a toll on our mental and physical selves,” says the document, prescribing that those microaggressed “dedicate time to love on ourselves.”
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