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LATEST: MSU Places Microaggression Boards for Students to Handle “Harmful Language”

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

Author: Sergei Kelley

At Michigan State University, new microaggression boards found in student dormitories instruct students on how to take action against “harmful language.”


The boards, placed by MSU Residence Education and Housing Services (REHS), further defines three microaggression categories: microinsult, microinvalidation, and microassault. Each can be remedied by their “B.A.R. Method.”


This method, starting with “breathe when you get in stressful situations,” states to “acknowledge what the other person is saying,” and finally, “respond to the other person.” The boards assure it will help conflict resolution in what MSU defines as “hostile situations.”


Microassault is described as “explicit bias and intended harm at someone,” whereas microinvalidation is “implicit bias and unintended harm to someone.” Microinsult only differs in it being “unintended subtle harm.”


Overall, the boards define microaggression as “everyday encounters of subtle discrimination that people of various marginalized groups experience throughout their lives.”

Similar boards, “our culture is not a costume,” were placed last Halloween. These focused on cultural appropriation, featuring a flowchart to identify if your costume was racist. A depiction of a man in a taco costume, with a sombrero, was labeled “racist.”

Examples of “harmful language” in the new boards include, “your English is really good,” and “can I touch your hair?”


“Microaggressions are absolutely legitimate,” MSU College Democrat Press Secretary Maysa Sitar told The Morning Watch. “It is important that students are comfortable and safe.”


On the aspect of free speech, Sitar acknowledged the “enforcements are limiting. The University obviously can’t punish a student saying “that’s so gay.”


REHS Assistant Director of Communications Bethany Balks told The Morning Watch, "building diverse, equitable and inclusive communities is at the core of MSU’s values...as part of our efforts to build inclusive communities, Residence Education and Housing Services provides educational opportunities and materials for new and returning residents throughout our buildings."


MSU student Austin Merrit told The Morning Watch, “I think the college has good intentions by posting these, but I think they take it a little too far. I understand not discriminating, but telling me what I can and can't say...is out of line with my right to free speech.” Merrit is a freshman studying World Politics.


MSU held an “Understanding Implicit Bias Certificate Program” last July, where participants “thoroughly examine[d] implicit bias and begin...interrupting their own biases as well as those embedded within systems at MSU.” This program was held by the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives and hosted by assistant professor Jessica Garcia.


An article produced by MSU Extension titled, “Making microaggressions visible is key to addressing the impacts.” Cited examples of microaggressions include, “saying, ‘I don’t see color,’” or “saying ‘colored people’ instead of ‘people of color,’” or saying blonde jokes.


The article also highlights “The Microaggression Project,” a website which includes “blogs of actual microaggressions.”


Contributor: Sergei Kelley


Updated on 9/25/2019 to include received REHS comment.

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