In our ever-progressing world, society has become more aware of certain ideas and attitudes that may be considered offensive. That said, there is no other place like a college campus where diverse groups of people from all walks of life gather for one common purpose — to educate themselves and prepare for a successful career. So it would make sense for campuses nationwide to address how to deal with “microaggressions,” a new term to describe the subtle remarks that are not intended to be derogatory but still propagate stereotypes. This can be anything from assuming a black student plays football to being surprised that a woman is a scientist. Whether we admit it or not, most people are guilty of some variation of microaggression. Although this is unfortunate, certain institutions are working toward changing peoples’ mindsets.
Clark University in Massachusetts has taken charge to deal specifically with microaggressions on its campus during their freshmen orientation. This includes their chief diversity officer, Sheree Marlowe, giving a two-hour presentation about the verbal and non-verbal forms of microaggressions. According to Marlowe, her presentations have sparked debate and gotten students to think in a new way about their everyday interactions with people from a variety of backgrounds. Although it’s refreshing to see a campus administration tackling an oftentimes ignored, yet important issue, several critics have stated that colleges should not be emphasizing such a politically correct atmosphere that nitpicks at every small comment.
Despite my admiration for Clark University’s attempt at making students more culturally aware, I do have my doubts on whether the microaggressions lecture will make a lasting impact on the student body. The truth is, once people have grown up with a certain set of values instilled in them, it’s extremely difficult to shift their perspective. If we want future generations to be more considerate of all races, religions, genders and sexual orientations, then the education needs to start well before college. Learning the difference between what is appropriate to say and what would be considered a microaggressive act would be much more impactful at a younger age as children are still constructing their outlook on the world. Instead of pigeonholing the conversation about diversity into two hours at a freshmen orientation, it would be much more useful to have an ongoing conversation that starts in elementary or middle school. This way, students can go into college already having a culturally aware attitude ingrained into their personalities.
Asha Kodan is a freshman biology major. She can be reached at email@example.com.