Profs launch ‘Victimhood Report’ to chronicle campus culture

Two sociology professors recently launched a blog to document the rise of “victimhood culture” on college campuses.

The Victimhood Report chronicles news related to “the clashes between victimhood and dignity” on campus, and was launched by California State University professor Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, who teaches at West Virginia University.   

Both Manning and Campbell met at the University of Virginia (UVa), where they conducted their PhD theses under sociologist Donald Black, a researcher who focuses on issues related to law, morality and justice.

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Manning and Campbell contend that seemingly separate phenomena such as the policing of microaggressions and requests for trigger warnings are actually indicative of the nascent moral system of “victimhood culture.”

This system is evidenced by “extreme sensitivity to slight…a penchant for portraying all grievances a matter of being oppressed by the powerful, and the practice of condemning people for their privilege while valorizing those seen as victims,” they write on their blog.

By blogging on topics such as "The Crime of Yoga" and "Victimhood Hoaxes and the Culture of Credulity," the professors hope to shed light on such issues, especially for readers who might not yet be informed of what’s happening on college campuses.

“When we first started writing virtually no one had heard of a microaggression,” Campbell told Campus Reform, adding that “it sounded like some kind of joke, or a parody of politically correct culture.”

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But by Fall 2015—with the eruptions over free speech at Yale University and the University of Missouri—terms like “microaggressions” and “safe spaces” had erupted onto national headlines.

The two professors now have a forthcoming book due to be published by Palgrave MacMillan later this week, The Rise of Victimhood Culture, but they hope the blog will provide them with a forum to document new “crimes” that may arise.

Cultural appropriation in yoga and “mansplaining” are relatively new concerns, Campbell noted, but there are “other things people only recently found out were even offenses,” and the list of “crimes” may continue to grow.

[RELATED: UNC claims Christmas vacations, golf outings are microaggressions]

Just because a casual observer might think victimhood culture is “silly” doesn’t mean it should be written off, he warned.

“Maybe people have ‘flown off the rails a bit,’ they might think, but what’s the big deal?” asks Campbell. “Whether you or I take the things campus activist say and do seriously doesn’t matter much. They take it seriously, and most of them will keep on doing so” [emphasis Campbell’s].

This new culture “demands that the university be a safe space,” added Bradley. “Any dissent, in this view, is oppression, perhaps even violence. This moral vision just isn’t compatible with a vision of the university as place of serious scholarship and robust debate.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen