Faculty guide: Make class a 'safe space' with 'oops/ouch' method

Amber Athey
Investigative Reporter

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  • A University of Arizona classroom dialogue guide encourages professors to use the “Oops/ouch method,” where students who are offended in class say “ouch” and the offender responds with “oops.”
  • The guide also recommends intervening to prevent microaggressions in the classroom, but cautions professors against expressing their own views in a way that intimidates students.
  • A University of Arizona classroom dialogue guide encourages professors to use the “Oops/ouch method,” where students who are offended in class say “ouch” and the offender responds with “oops.”

    The guide, published by the Office for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence, provides outlines for how to encourage discussion about diversity in the classroom, explaining that “diversity poses both challenges and opportunities for a college campus.”

    “Creating a safe space for students...is vital in promoting positive intergroup interactions.”   

    [RELATED: Pomona College makes promoting diversity part of promotion, tenure criteria]

    “Creating a safe space for students for engaging in dialogue about challenging topics is vital in promoting positive intergroup interactions,” the guide says, though it later clarifies that “no faculty is required to utilize the guidelines,” which are “merely suggestions for faculty who want to engender the broadest possible perspectives, opinions, and experiences and to maximize free speech in the classroom.”

    One way to spur positive interactions and create a “safe space” in the classroom, the handbook claims, is to set a ground rule of using “Oops/ouch” in cases where one student offends another.

    “If a student feels hurt or offended by another student’s comment, the hurt student can say ‘ouch,” the guide explains. “In acknowledgement, the student who made the hurtful comment says ‘oops.’ If necessary, there can be further dialogue about this exchange.”

    In addition to “Oops/ouch,” the classroom dialogue guide also discusses microaggressions in depth, describing ways in which they can be harmful to a classroom environment and providing examples of microaggressions that should be stopped by faculty.

    Professors could be committing microaggressions, for example, if they mispronounce a student’s name repeatedly or make “assumptions about students and their backgrounds.”

    [RELATED: Students demand ‘microaggression workshop’ for all faculty]

    “All you millennials are on Facebook, so I will post the e-vite for the class project on the site,” reads an example of a microaggression against non-traditional students.

    The guide tells professors that they should also be sure to interrupt microaggressions committed by their students, even if they occur in personal conversations unrelated to the course.

    Even though most of the guide outlines what acceptable views and dialogue on diversity entail, and encourages professors to step-in when those conditions are not met, it also cautions them against imposing their views on students in a way that might serve to stifle open conversation.

    “As a faculty member, when you express your views to students you are doing so out of a position of power,” it states. “That is, students may be afraid to express themselves given that they know your position on an issue and that their grade may be on the line.”

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @amber_athey



    Amber Athey

    Amber Athey

    Investigative Reporter

    Amber Athey is an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. She graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Government and Economics, and is currently a member of the 2016-2017 Koch Associate Program. 

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