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Microaggressed on Campus? There’s an App for That

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 12:00 pm, November 5, 2016

Feeling microaggressed on campus? There’s an app for that, at least at the University of California Santa Cruz.

Christy Byrd, an assistant professor of psychology, created the MicroReport app to gather more empirical evidence about perceived microaggressions.

Between November 2015 and June 2016, the app recorded 477 reports of microaggressions from 294 students. The university released preliminary findings from that data last week.

The MicroReport app does not fact-check whether reported incidents of microaggressions really occurred. It tracks what students consider to be microaggressions instead of imposing its own definition.

“From a psychological perspective,” Byrd says, “what’s important is what the person experiences, not how valid an outside person judges their experience.”

Byrd says she’s interested to learn more about “where most people draw a line between microaggressions and overt discrimination,” adding that “even the existing research is not totally clear on where that is.”

The MicroReport app also tracked respondents’ race, gender, sexual orientation, and emotional status. The students who reported more microaggressions also reported lower self-esteem, more depressive symptoms and stress, and lower feelings of competence, Byrd discovered.

Byrd says her research may help administrators decide how to handle reports of microaggressions on campus, though she adds that she doesn’t have a strong opinion about what specific responses are most appropriate.

Universities’ handling of such perceived slights have been a source of controversy over the past year. Many universities offer microaggression training, sometimes mandating it. Often, administration offers counseling services or support to students who feel they have been subjected to microaggressions; punishing alleged microaggressors is more controversial, given how subjective the concept is.

Byrd acknowledges microaggressions are subjective—but she says that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken seriously.

“My feeling is that a campus is a community, like a family,” Byrd says. “If your mother has a particular way she likes to stack her bowls in the dishwasher, even if you disagree, you go along with it because you love her. In terms of microaggressions and other offensive language, if someone tells you that what you … You might still disagree, but if you care about that person and want them as part of your community–your family–you go along with it.”

Byrd says she’s been talking with other colleges about expanding use of her MicroReport app app, though she conduct further studies until she’s fully analyzed the data from UC-Santa Cruz.

Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.

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