HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Finally: An Anonymous, Online, Geo-Tagged System to Report Microaggressions at College!

I realize that simply by saying that you’ve probably heard of microaggressions, I’m likely committing one.

For the uninitiated, microaggressions are “are statements by a person from a privileged group that belittles or isolates a member of an unprivileged group, as it relates to race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability and more.” The really innovative thing about microaggressions is that they are often meant in a spirit of inclusion by the speaker. For instance, depending on who’s speaking and who’s listening, complimeting someone on their hair, clothing, or whatever might count as a covert way of putting him in his place. “That’s a really fancy jacket” may really be code for WTF are you doing in clothes that are above your station?

But I’ll risk microaggressing you to note that the student government at Ithaca College in upstate New York has just passed a mind-blowing bill that will allow students to anonymously report offensive statements such as “Where are you really from?” and “You don’t look disabled.” The system will include “demographics” about the aggressor and the aggressee and tag location info too, according to one of the sponsors of the bill. . . .

So remember, kids, you don’t go to college to learn new things and feed your head. You go to college to be subjected to an anonymous system of collecting information about the bad thoughts you have and the misstatements you make, some of which you might not even have intended to be hurtful.

But rest easy, because if you are in fact accused of microaggressing, your accuser “would likely have to reveal their identity” if any charges are pressed (emphasis added). Because we know how well colleges do at handling legal-style proceedings. . . .

Unless your goal is to chill or control speech and thought, this sort of program is a complete anathema to everything that higher education is supposed to promote and cherish. But there you are, another year older and deeper in debt.

Alan Charles Kors, the University of Pennsylvania historian and co-founder of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has long argued that colleges systematically engage in false advertising. That is, they tell parents and prospective students that they offer wide-open educational experiences while in fact harshly limiting and circumscribing all sorts of expression and inquiry.

I’d like to think that if Ithaca College actually implements its microaggression reporting system that it will trumpet that fact in all promotional materials so that new and continuing students will understand that they are not entering a space in which free thought and expression are encouraged but one in which they will be subject to surveillance and secret accusations ripped straight out of mid-century anti-totalitarian novels.

If they don’t, I encourage disappointed students to sue them.