Illinois State University Rolls Out Training Program for Microaggression Witnesses

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By Emily Zanotti | 1:49 pm, March 1, 2017

Illinois State University wants its students to be better prepared to combat microaggressions on campus. To that end, they’re offering classes and group training in how to recognize microaggressions, and how to intervene when one sees one happen on campus.

The “bystander training program” rolled out last fall, but its only now beginning to gain popularity among faculty and administrators who want students to be more cognizant of their latent racism and sexism.

The program’s facilitator, Dr. Jason Vasquez, an ISU counselor, says that the school has a problem with microaggressions, which include, “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group.”

Women, students of color, and others have complained about being stereotyped, isolated and marginalized, because other students have been unconsciously using the wrong words, making odd gestures, or expressing their respective privileges in full view of other students.

According to the training, students should be prepared to encounter microaggressions daily, and should be unafraid to intervene or call out the perpetrators with the simple, “What you are saying or doing is offensive,” and then use the incident as a “teaching moment” on racism or sexism for all involved in the encounter.

Students should refrain from any “dismissiveness,” by responding to the intervention by pretending they had no idea they were being discriminatory. Students should never, when confronted say things like, “You’re too sensitive!” or “That’s just how people talk.”

“You must be the change that you want to see in the world,” Dr. Vasquez assures his pupils.

According to The College Fix, ISU already has a host of training programs and resources available for victims and potential perpetrators of microaggressions. This is largely because of an incident last fall, when the school held a  conference on microaggressions and students complained that they did not have “safe spaces” from racial prejudice.

During that event, a white male professor speaking at the conference, took the position that in education, “dominant theories are paramount as they are the foundation of the discipline.” A black female professor was insulted, insisting that discipline must be reframed to value ” marginalized peoples’ contributions equally,” regardless of merit.