Clemson RAs ‘must demonstrate commitment to social justice’

In order to serve as a Resident Assistant (RA) at Clemson University, students “must demonstrate a commitment to social justice.”

According to a job description for the position, the university asks its RAs to engage in “global citizenship” and as such are expected to remain committed to “social justice” while using “sustainable practices.”

Just to be certain, though, the school requires them to complete a nine-day RA training on issues such as microaggressions and common “defense mechanisms” used to fight “triggers.”

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One RA, who recently completed the training but wished to remain anonymous, told Campus Reform that he and his peers were “encouraged to take note of microaggressions as RAs and confront the micro-aggressor about their use of language” during one training session.

According to the RA, participants discussed potentially microaggressive “phrases” such as “that’s so gay” and were encouraged to offer alternatives to their residents when such language is used.

“Sometimes we think about gay as a substitute for weird, silly, stupid, but is that really? And I apologize if using this word in this scenario is harmful to anybody in the audience. I should have clarified that, I apologize,” the proctor of the training session remarked, according to a recording obtained by Campus Reform.

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“How long before this type of speech gets banned in the pursuit of banning all hate speech? I think this session was a front for a future endeavor to push a larger position of outlawing certain types of speech,” the anonymous RA remarked on his experiences.

In another session, students leaders were asked to reflect on how they respond in “triggering” situations, with a handout on the session noting that while “triggers do not necessarily threaten our physical safety,” they do often cause the aggrieved to “feel psychologically threatened.”

The handout goes on to stipulate that some people can even “be triggered on behalf of another social group” if their “sense of social justice feels violated.”

“We were told that the room we were in was a ‘safe space,’ but the proctor challenged us to make it a ‘brave space,’ the difference being that brave spaces could possibly make you uncomfortable,” the RA recounted. “But not to worry; if you thought that any of the issues that we talked about were too triggering, you were free to step out of the room.”

Meanwhile, RAs were required to watch a film on “5 Tips For Being An Ally,” which encouraged viewers to “understand your privilege” and “speak up not over.”

Kathy Hobgood, executive director of housing and dining, explained to Campus Reform that the trigger-warning activity “was designed to have RA’s reflect on their own personal patterns of behavior and response to their emotions while having difficult conversations, with the goal of making a personal plan for future conversations.”

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Additionally, Hobgood revealed that the RA trainings were conducted “in accordance with the ClemsonForward strategic plan unveiled in 2016,” which compels staff to “continue to nurture a climate of diversity, inclusion, and respect.”

“RAs are in place to serve all residents and the community as a whole. Learning how to support students of varying backgrounds is an important part of this process,” she added, saying the “focus is on fostering a safe, nurturing environment for all students.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @rMitchellGunter