Britain’s most prestigious university has deemed asking where someone is originally from and avoiding eye contact to be a racist “micro-aggression”.
In a newsletter issued by Oxford University, the Equality and Diversity Unit advises students to refrain from asking others where they are originally from and avoiding eye contact as it could potentially cause “mental ill-health”, the Mail Online reported.
It claims that asking someone’s original place of birth implies that the person isn’t British. The newsletter also mentions “not speaking directly to people” and “jokes drawing attention to someone’s difference” as examples of racism.
The Trinity term newsletter notes that while these behaviors and questions are “well-meaning” they contribute to negative stereotypes about other people and make them feel like they “do not belong”.
The Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Kent University and outspoken critic of today’s students, Frank Furedi, slammed the “Orwellian” newsletter issued by Oxford University, calling students to “wake up to reality”.
“To go from simply stating someone is racist based on what they say to assume they are unconsciously racist is a very Orwellian turn,” he told the Mail Online.
“Microaggressions empower the accuser to say that it doesn’t matter what you intend by that look, I just know by the look of your eyes you are racist. It is a very insidious way of thinking. Universities used to understand the reality that humans are complex.”
Furedi added: “It would be nice if Oxford could wake up to reality.”
According to Oxford, the advice given in the newsletter was part of campaign against discrimination and for equality of opportunity.
“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,” an Oxford spokesperson said.
“The newsletter is one way of advising and supporting staff towards achieving these aims.”
The students at an Oxford college, Pembroke, have recently participated in a campaign where they were told to report each others’ “macro and microaggressions” to a welfare officer, who would then deal with it by “mediation with the other party” or “through harassment policy”.
Professor Furedi urged British students to fight back against the trend of so-called microaggressions, saying only “a minority of students make it their own cause.”
“But there are usually a lot of people who think it is stupid but they acquiesce to it and eventually the influence of these ideas becomes more prominent,” he added.