What’s a Microaggression at Syracuse University? Not Knowing Someone Else’s Music

December 30, 2015

By Ashe Schow at Washington Examiner

Being a music teacher and being insufficiently aware of every trend in music around the world is now a microaggression.

At least according to one particularly special snowflake at Syracuse University.

During a “listening session” at Syracuse that allowed students essentially to vent about what they perceived as racial and social injustice at the university, one student stood up to describe her tale of woe. David Rubin, former dean of the university’s School of Public Communications, was there to document the tale.

“One student said a music faculty member was unaware of the latest musical trends in this student’s culture. The student felt this was a micro-aggression against her, Rubin wrote.

“Why didn’t this young woman simply offer, in a friendly way, to visit the faculty member and introduce this new music?” Rubin added. “A micro-aggression? Please.”

Rubin describes the session as being about personal issues, “safe spaces” and microaggressions such as the one survived by the aforementioned student. He also explained that the listening sessions will do nothing to bring about the changes desired by the students.

For one, the faculty member who needed to hear the students wasn’t at the session, and for another, as Rubin describes, there was no actual discussion.

“Not once in more than 90 minutes did anyone stand and say ‘I disagree with what was just said,’ or ‘I have another perspective on that,'” Rubin wrote. “The ‘discussion’ was airless and self-validating. The single exception was an Hispanic faculty member who pleaded for a little humor in assessing true racial slights.”

Rubin wrote that the university will continue giving students a space to vent next year, but argued that it would be pointless.

“We need less safety and more honesty, fewer self-validating listening sessions and more edgy dialogues,” he wrote.

In an email response to the Washington Examiner, Rubin stressed that he doesn’t believe microaggressions will be the future of college campuses, and pointed to a report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that shows colleges moving away from restrictive speech codes.

At Syracuse, Rubin said he chaired a working group that proposed a new free speech code that would protect the First Amendment.

“It would not permit the ‘offended’ hearer to determine what sort of speech is, indeed, offensive and ought to be sanctioned,” Rubin wrote. “We would not punish such ‘offensive’ speech unless it crosses a clear line into threatening speech, which is true in society at large. Nor would we punish micro-aggressions.”

“We have proposed that you answer offensive speech with speech, not with rules and regulations that suppress speech,” he added.

Schools: Syracuse University