Microaggressions, which can be described as an unintentional or intentional insult toward someone, have become an extremely pertinent and controversial topic on campus and beyond.
Greg Summers, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, said he stresses the importance of not policing speech on campus.
“A lot of these issues about microaggressions are pushed by student groups that are interested in seeing campus reforms,” Summers said. “There has been a lot of push back by conservative circles that feel microaggressions limit free speech.”
Summers said he feels the university tries to provide the inclusive and diverse environment that most students want.
“We have certainly had some incidents in the past that had racial overtones, that were hostile towards other groups. There has also been hostility towards homosexual people on campus,” he said. “We are not without our tensions on campus, but I think we have done a relatively good job with trying to deal with those tensions.”
In the past couple of years the university has become more diverse, Summers said.
“Just in general, you want a university to be a place that has diversified opinions. We are not here to tell people what to think. We want to teach people how to think,” he said. “People will disagree with one another, and that’s a good thing. We just want to make sure that they are disagreeing in a respectful environment.”
Ron Strege, director of diversity and college access, gives several presentations on campus focusing on diversity and inclusion.
“Microaggression is an issue in the world, not just our campus. It’s not about being politically correct. It’s about being human or humane to someone,” Strege said.
Strege said he believes trying to avoid microaggressions does not prohibit freedom of speech.
“It’s about treating someone the way that they want to be treated. Microaggressions have nothing to do with political correctness or freedom of speech,” Strege said. “Nobody is taking away anyone’s right to say anything.”
Strege said he believes microaggressions have repercussions because of their discriminatory nature.
Kaylee Bast, business and communication major, said while it is important to be aware, monitoring speech does not always work.
“I think it’s less about restricting freedom of speech, and more about thinking about a comment before you say it. It’s good to be aware of other people’s backgrounds and education level,” Bast said. “At the same time, sometimes people aren’t always consciously aware that they are making offensive remarks. I think we should recognize that it’s hard to say the perfect thing all of the time.”