Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Oxford University publishes list of micro-aggressions

In the latest snowflake newsletter from Oxford University students are warned to be aware of micro-aggressions by the university’s equality and diversity unit (an oxymoron if ever I heard one as you’re not allowed to express different views anymore).

So if you don’t look another student in the eye you might be guilty of racist behaviour. This is absolute poppycock. What about cultural differences where it’s considered inappropriate to look someone directly in the face? Or people who are shy, or introverts, or on the autistic spectrum?

And don’t ask a black or minority ethnic student where they are “originally” from. It might suggest you don’t believe they are British. Well they may not be and what if you are interested in knowing more about other cultures? Isn’t that why you go to university – to expand your mind?

And don’t joke about someone’s accent. Not even Geordie, black country (can we still call it that?) or scouse accents? (And didn’t Sir Lenny Henry make a living out of funny accents?)

The newsletter says that subtle everyday racism can appear trivial but “repeated micro-aggressions can be tiring and alienating (and can lead to mental ill-health”).

It says some people who do these things may be entirely well-meaning and would be mortified to realise they had caused offence. “But this is of little consequence if a possible effect of their words or actions is to suggest to people that may fulfil a negative stereotype or do not belong”. Or they might just think “get over it”.

The coordinator of the Free Speech Ranking project that highlights censorship on university campuses, called it ridiculous. “This is all part of a chilling desire on the part of university authorities to police not just opinions but everyday conversations between students. It’s not only deeply authoritarian, it has a chilling effect on how students interact with one another“.

The university defended the advice saying that “the equality and diversity unit works with university bodies to ensure that the university’s pursuit of excellence goes hand in hand with freedom from discrimination and equality of opportunity and the newsletter is one way of advising and supporting staff towards achieving these aims

What about freedom of speech and encouraging students to think for themselves? All this advice is tiring and irritating to those of us who live in the real world.

Update 28/4/17 from BBC website

Oxford University has apologised for saying that avoiding eye contact could be “everyday racism” after it was accused of discriminating against, and criticised for being “insensitive” to autistic people who can struggle making eye contact.

It said it had made a mistake and not taken disabilities into account. In a series of tweets, the university replied: “We made a mistake. Our newsletter was too brief to deal adequately and sensibly with the issue. “We are sorry that we took no account of other reasons for difference in eye contact and social interaction, including disability.

“Oxford deeply values and works hard to support students and staff with disabilities, including those with autism or social anxiety disorder.”

Some academics argued the guidance was “trivialising racism“. Emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent, Prof Frank Furedi, said the newsletter’s authors “need a reality check“.

It was basically a misguided PC argument put out by ill-informed people at what is supposed to be one of our top universities. Despair.

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Cambridge snowflakes complaining about food

chef_stiring_pot_anim_500_wht_6703Have students nothing better to do than accuse a college chef of cultural appropriation or misrepresentation and micro-aggressions by (mis)naming food?

Among their targets at Pembroke College Cambridge are: Jamaican Stew, Chinese Chicken, Indian Fish pie, African stew with sweet potato, and a Tunisian rice dish.

Various students have complained that these dishes don’t exist in their home countries.

It started when a student posted on a Facebook page called Grudgebridge “Dear catering staff, stop mixing mango and beef and calling it Jamaican stew; it’s rude“. Not to be confused with “rude boys” presumably i.e. those wild Jamaican boys who like reggae and ska?

The complaints then built up citing the other dishes as micro-aggressions. There was only one student, an Indian, who suggested that the catering staff should at least be given credit for trying saying “I urge people to look around and realise there’s a lot more to life than complaining about fruity chicken“. Well said!

To which a black student complained about  being constantly invalidated when flagging up specific issues and claiming that micro-aggressions are a reality of everyday existence for people of colour. Well maybe if you are always looking for them.

Of course the college is leaning over backwards to appease the students and the college bursar said that the college encouraged catering staff to take the views of students seriously.

The current generation of students are a real timorous bunch who should be thinking hard about their futures and how employers will perceive all this petty PC behaviour.

Don’t the students realise that we have a habit of messing about with foreign cuisine here in the UK?


Student “Snowflakes” need protecting!

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

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University students upset by lectures covering “sensitive topics” could be given deadline extensions, exam resits or exemptions from set work to ensure they are not disadvantaged.

Guidance drawn up by Newcastle University warns that students could be so distressed by material dealing with such issues as rape, violence, racism and misogyny that it could affect their academic performance.

If this happened, the case could be referred to a committee of tutors with the power to make “adjustments” to how these students were examined, such as excusing them from completing some of the assessed work.

Academics across the country are already issuing “trigger warnings” to give students advance notice of “sensitive material”, including images in video games, war photography and topless models, as well as discussions of underage sex, homelessness and religion.

While some professors defend their use, others have criticised them for putting pressure on tutors to self-censor what they…

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Are our students the most illiberal and wimpish ever?

group_of_protesters_1600_wht_9442I’m sick of hearing about safe spaces and micro-aggressions (and have posted on this elsewhere).

Not to mention the attempts to remove the  Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford University by a Rhodes scholar Ntokozo Qwabe (talk about biting the hand that feeds you) backed by the new head of the NUS Malia Bouattia (who has been censured in the past for anti-Semitic comments).

We’ve also had feminists Germaine Greer and Julie Bindell and gay activist Peter Tatchell banned from university campuses because of their views on transgender issues. No platform is the new mantra for people trying to stop free speech or alternative views.

Now a survey of students’ attitudes towards free speech by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi)  “Keeping Schtum? What Students think of Free Speech” reveals the shocking truth about present-day students.

They don’t believe in free speech.

Asking over 1,000 students in 100 British Universities the Hepi found that:

  • 75% would ban speakers who had views that offended them
  • Two-thirds support the idea that students should be given “trigger warnings” before sensitive subjects such as rape were raised in class so they could leave if it would upset them
  • More than half said they wanted to get rid of university memorials to controversial historical figures
  • 48% wanted universities to be declared “safe spaces” where debate only takes place within strict rules to safeguard students of a particular gender, culture, or sexuality
  • And almost half supported the idea that librarians should not stock racist, sexist, or holocaust-denial literature
  • 38% said student unions should ban the sale of some tabloid newspapers
  • 27% said UKIP members should not be invited to speak on campus

And women were more likely than men to accept censorship – 55% want safe spaces compared to 39% of men and 45% want to ban tabloid newspapers compared to 29% of male students.

Feminist writer Naomi Wolf said the attitudes displayed in the report were “catastrophic” and showed a “terrifying trend, especially in British Universities which for 800 years have served as lights of freedom of thought in various past times of oppression“. She thought British Universities should shudder at the report and take immediate action.

Historian Amanda Foreman said it was sad that students were fighting for the right to close their minds against new ideas. “You only have to look at the german student unions which organised the burning of 25,000 un-German books at 34 universities in 1933 to know that freedom’s enemies comes in all shapes and sizes”

The report’s author Nick Hillman said “This is the first detailed study on what the mass of UK students really think about freedom of speech and it makes worrying reading”.  A bit of an understatement I think.

He thought Higher Education Institutions should redouble their efforts to discuss the challenges to free speech with their students.

And universities should urgently arrange teaching to challenge the bigotry and prejudices of their students and get them to open their minds to debate.

I feel only sympathy for academics trying to teach in this oppressive environment, being oppressed by the very people they are trying to educate.

How did we get to this pitiful state of affairs? And what does the future hold for these close-minded oversensitive souls who are supposed to be our brightest and best? Did it start with parents managing a risk-averse childhood?

Heaven help them when – or if, given that some will stay in academia and further propagate this nonsense – they have to live in the real world and interact with real people on a day-to day basis with all their different values and prejudices.