We have already discussed the growing list of micro-aggressive languages that colleges and universities consider inappropriate. From a freedom of speech perspective, there is concern that this category of mandatory language is often poorly defined and subjective, including seating decisions or eye contact. The Bureau for Diversity, Justice, and Inclusion at Mount Holyoke College just added new terms to this list, with a social media guide that lists "fatphobic language," which is not classified as microaggressive. The terms contain sentences like “I'm so bad for eating this” or “You have such a pret on my face. "
To say "I'm so bad for eating this" is incredibly inducing, according to Mount Holyoke, "but it also feeds into a damaging narrative created by diet culture of" good "foods versus" bad "ones "Teaches food."
The bureau admitted that the guide was originally posted on The Power of Plus Instagram account, which, according to the account's description, is "a digital size lockout community that proves fashion fits all bodies …".
The Diversity Office urged students to "take the time to think about these everyday comments / sentences that are microaggressions".
I have no objection to the office trying to share others' views on how certain sentences are received. I dropped certain terms or phrases even though I didn't see why a term or phrase was offensive. It was enough for others to find a certain language offensive, and I don't want them to feel uncomfortable. For example, I would not use some of the identified phrases because they could be misunderstood.
Hence, there is a clearly positive element in a school like Mount Holyoke that publishes such information to share a perspective some of us may not have. The problem with free speech is how to use such microaggressive terms to restrict or punish language, including facilitating complaints for formal investigation. Many people are likely to disagree with the Office's position on these terms. How does the listing work when a complaint is made? Disciplinary action often appears to be based on how speech is received and not intended. Schools need to be clear about whether microaggressive language can be the basis for bias complaints and measures.
The student handbook warns: "(H) ostian or hateful language or other discriminatory behavior can be viewed as a biased incident, but can also be a hate crime under certain circumstances."
The manual warns of possible discipline without clearly defining which language is hostile or biased:
“A biased incident at Mount Holyoke is an act of bigotry, harassment, or intimidation that takes place on the campus of Mount Holyoke College and is directed at a member or group of the Mount Holyoke community based on actual or perceived age, color that person or group. Creed, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity / presentation, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, social class, veteran status, or any combination of these or related factors. In the event of a bias, the culprit may or may not be known. (adapted from Cornell University)
Note that the categories used here are broader than those specified in the college's non-discrimination statement. The non-discrimination statement focuses only on categories protected by law, while the college bias incident definition covers categories that are not regulated by law but fall under college guidelines. "