The Minnesota Student Association (MSA) launched its “Not Just Words” campaign for the month of April as a movement to end the microaggressions that have plagued our cruel world.
According to a Buzzfeed quiz made by MSA and posted on the school website, “A microaggression is typically any type of insult that works to enforce systems of oppression. As a rule, microaggressions typically have something larger lying behind them.”
That same quiz cites multiple examples of the oppressive microaggressions used daily on campus including, “You speak English really well,” and “You’re a much better driver than I expected,” along with political phrases like, “illegal alien.”
“It’s micro but it’s got a macro effect. It’s called a microaggression because it is aggressive but often it is not intended to be,” reads part of the quiz, “Even when it is, it is a small insult that ties to something larger. Calling somebody a slur might not seem like the end of the world but those slurs are bound to real power dynamics.”
MSA has also offered a survey for students to list their microaggressions so that the student governmentcan know how to better handle these verbal assaults.
The “Not Just Words” campaign is spearheaded by the MSA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. This same committee also “advocated for a more widespread use of trigger warnings, which simply warn students of any potentially traumatic content that will be covered.”
“I think that everyone is impacted by microaggressions and that is the point of the campaign,” MSA President Joelle Stangler said, “We want students to be more careful with the words that they use because you may not know the impact they have.”
“We have heard some criticisms about free speech and curtailing speech, but to us this is not really about that,” Stangler said, “This is free speech. We are using free speech to say that this is your speech and this is how it impacts me. The best way to deal with microaggressors is to educate them, but this campaign isn’t asking for policies. We are just raising awareness.”
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee Director David Algadi declined to comment on his committee’s project.
MSA cannot implement this policy without changing the student code of conduct and working with anadministration which recently pledged to protect free speech.The campaign itself though is representative of the political atmosphere on campus.
With targeting jilting insults like complimenting someone’s ability to speak multiple languages, such campaignstread a narrow line on free speech. By looking to censoreven the most innocent of comments, college students are working to completely limit any form of speech that could cause discomfort.
MSA’s attempt to be more inclusive may also have the effect of crowding out anyone with opinions that dissent from the student government establishment’s positions.MSA’s Diversity and Inclusion page claims, “As a student government body, we work to ensure that every voice and perspective is not only heard, but welcomed.”
It remains to be seen ifMSA will work to include and welcome the perspectives of those who find their new campaign to be on dangerous grounds regarding the First Amendment.