"Rest assured I take this extremely seriously. I humbly dedicate myself to listening and to learning from this experience. Together, as a community, we will work towards just, equitable, and lasting solutions. Together, we shall heal."
Wrote Val Rust, the UCLA professor whose class was chosen as the site for a sit-in to protest "microaggression." One of various charges against Rust was that he overdid the marking up of their papers with spelling and grammar corrections. There were other offenses as well, such as failing to intervene in a classroom dialogue between 2 students in which a black male was telling a white female that she's not entitled to use "Standpoint Theory," because she's not a member of an oppressed group. Rust underdid that part of his role, in the view of the protesting students, who seem to have wanted more "support" from him.
I can understand a teacher feeling confident about correcting specific errors, but hanging back when students are arguing with each other about a matter for which there is no right answer. But I wasn't there, and Rust now says he let that "discussion" go on "for quite a while." I can't say what that classroom felt like. Teachers often think that things are going well when the students go back and forth with each other, but there are times when it's uncomfortable and the teacher should feel moved to restore harmony.
But there's something awful about exploring these issues by targeting one teacher for a sit-in. I suspect the students have learned this. "Microaggression" could have been a valuable concept for understanding racial dynamics, but by their actions, they've made it seem — to many people who haven't previously heard or thought much about the term — like a device for making weird, unfair charges against a decent person.
Ironically, the students' words and actions are what feel micro and aggressive.