LA Times blasts UC Berkeley 'microaggressions'
Remember when students at the University of California—Berkeley fought tirelessly for freedom of speech?
In a recent staff editorial, the Los Angeles Times declared the 1960s Free Speech Movement at UC-Berkeley a vestige of a bygone era where opinions were appreciated, not policed, on college campuses.
"If a university official says, ‘I believe the most qualified candidate should get the job,’ does that really mean ‘people of color are given unfair benefits?’"
“It’s troubling when any institution tries to squelch debate or discourage controversial ideas…,” the Times’s editorial board wrote. “Yet that’s exactly what’s happening thanks to heavy-handed sensitivity training about so-called microaggressions.”
The Times’s editorial comes in response to an extensive list of so-called ‘microaggressions’ distributed to faculty within the University of California System. Included in the list of allegedly offensive words and phrases are statements like “America is the land of opportunity” and “everyone in this society can succeed, if they work hard enough.”
“University instructors everywhere should feel free to say that America is a 'land of opportunity' or that affirmative action is ‘racist’ or that a student of any race or gender is ‘good in math’ without having to worry that they might inadvertently be offending someone,” the Times wrote.
While acknowledging that certain words and phrases deserve to be labeled “derogatory,” the Times said the list contained several expressions that “are not necessarily aggressive at all.”
“If a university official says, ‘I believe the most qualified candidate should get the job,’ does that really mean ‘people of color are given unfair benefits?’” the Times wrote, referencing one of more than 50 phrases included among the list of offensive statements and subliminal messages.
According to the UC System, the list was distributed during faculty training seminars with the intention of fostering conversation “about the best way to build and nurture a productive academic climate.” In response to critics who accused administrators of censorship, UC President Janet Napolitano said the list was meant only as a guiding document for faculty members who remain able to speak freely.
“That’s true, but the university is clearly discouraging certain kinds of statements, and faculty will take notice — especially those members without tenure,” the editorial board wrote.
Citing students’ demands for trigger warnings—statements used to notify individuals of potentially upsetting material—and sensitivity trainings, the Times described the current climate on college campuses as “disheartening days in academia.”
“We're all for sensitivity and we are against racism and sexism,” stated the Times. “But colleges have always been bastions of free expression because the learning process requires students to debate controversial and occasionally disturbing ideas.”
Just days after the Times’s scathing editorial, the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, released its own list of “racial microaggressions” for incoming faculty members to review.
According to the list, statements like “you are so articulate” imply that “people of color are generally not as intelligent as Whites.”
A collection of Letters to the Editor published by the Times convey Americans’ frustrations with the growing suppression of free speech in higher education. Readers alluded to ‘slippery slope’ arguments against content-based speech regulation and accused the UC System of distributing “nanny-state propaganda.”
“Where does the University of California system's list of ‘microaggressions’ end?” one reader wrote. “Will discussion of evolution in a biology class be a microaggression against a creationist? What will that leave, talking about the weather? Oh, wait, that might be microaggression against a climate-change denier. I rest my case.”
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