Entire class punished for 'microaggressive' comments

Toni Airaksinen
Columnist at PJ Media

  • A Columbia University professor recently described how an entire class was punished after some students used “microaggressive” language in an online chat.
  • After requiring students to read two articles on microaggressions and "racial identity," the instructors separated the white students from the "People of the Global Majority" for a debriefing.
  • A Columbia University professor recently described how an entire class was punished after some students used “microaggressive” language in an online chat.

    Matthea Marquart, who teaches online classes for graduate students studying social work, noticed that some students used unspecified “racially microaggressive” language during the live chat of a recent online class.

    "We encourage educators and educational researchers to join this dialogue about...uses of technology in mediating experiences of microaggressions."   

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    “Directly after class, the instructional team met to debrief and plan a response,” Marquart wrote in a Jan 4 article for the journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work which she co-authored with the course’s teaching assistant and an online instructional support staffer.

    The response, as Marquart indicated, consisted of punishing the entire class with extra work.

    Students were slapped with “two additional readings,” consisting of the seminal 16-page article that popularized the term microaggressions, “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice,” and a 21 page essay on the link between “white identity” and “mental health” that was titled “European American (White) Racial Identity Development.”

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    In an additional discussion post, the students were instructed to come clean about whether they were one of the students who were “active” in the microaggressive chat comments, and to explain what the “experience” of seeing the microaggressive comments was like.

    “What have other conversations around identity, race, culture, oppression, and colonization been like for you at our school?” Marquart also asked students, later asking, “what can you contribute that might change the experience of this conversation for yourself?”

    Not only did the professor report the microaggression to the Columbia University administration, but during the next class session she even racially segregated the students into two “affinity groups” for a debriefing—one group for white students and another for “People of the Global Majority.”

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    Fighting microaggressions in online classrooms is crucial, Marquart writes.

    “The hostile behavior of people who post online comments has been well documented,” she says, arguing that more attention should be paid to these “unique challenges regarding marginalization.”

    Stressing the need for “further research on racial microaggressions in online classrooms,” the authors conclude by encouraging “educators and educational researchers to join this dialogue about the contemporary challenges of distance learning and uses of technology in mediating experiences of microaggressions.”

    The article was co-authored by the two teaching assistants for the class, Columbia University School of Social Work graduate students Amelia Ortega and Malwina Andruczyk.

    None of the authors responded to a requests for comment from Campus Reform.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen





    Toni Airaksinen

    Toni Airaksinen

    Columnist at PJ Media
    Toni Airaksinen is Columnist at PJ Media and a Consultant at Youth Radio. She was previously a New Jersey Campus Correspondent, reporting on liberal bias and abuse for Campus Reform with a focus on Title IX, the OCR, and the First Amendment. During college, she also was a columnist for Quillette and The Columbia Spectator. Her exclusives have been featured on FOX News and The Drudge Report. She graduated from Barnard College in 2018.
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