The University of Wisconsin to require “cultural competency” training for all incoming students

It looks as if the University Follies aren’t over, even though the academic year of 2015-2016 has ended. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, a previously respected school—the University of Wisconsin at Madison—is going to require 1000 of its entering students to receive “cultural compentency training” this fall, and then for all its first years (over 7,000) to get that training in the fall of 2017. The new program is called “Our Wisconsin,” and is described in a University Press release. The program is more or less what you’d expect: an attempt to indoctrinate students into a politically correct point of view:

“College is often the first time where people are exposed to people who are different from themselves — those could be religious differences, racial, socio-economic status, or sexual orientation,” says Joshua Moon Johnson, who is leading the program’s development as interim special assistant to the Vice Provost for Student Life. Most of the problems seen on college campuses stem from ignorance, not malice, he says.

Johnson, who chairs the UW–Madison Hate and Bias Incident Team says many of the incidents reported to the team involve disrespectful speech that was intended to be funny or inquisitive. Those result from people lacking an understanding of the historical context surrounding race, difference and violence, he says.

The training will be conducted in person in two sessions. It will provide an opportunity to discuss topics such as identity, culture and microaggressions.

“This pilot is an effort to definitely create some broad awareness of difference — not to tell people how to think, but to tell people how to critique the ways in which they think,” Johnson says.

And if you believe that last line, I have some land in Florida I’d like to sell you. The dissimulation here is revealed by what was said by one organizer of the “Our Wisconsin” team:

Katrina Morrison, a junior from Milwaukee, is one of the students who are helping to shape the program. She campaigned as a representative for the Associated Students of Madison pledging to address campus climate and continues to fight for progress on the Equity and Inclusion Committee.

“We wanted to talk about privilege. What is white privilege? What are sets of privileges that we all have?” says Morrison. “It’s okay that we all have these different sets of privileges and identities and we can still coexist.”

Yes, so long as the “privileged” acknowledge their status and the shame that is supposed to accompany it.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports a bit more:

Michael Davis, a black graduate student who helped organize a protest this spring, said the training program could be one step toward improving the campus. But he said UW shouldn’t only address racism on an individual level, and must take steps to combat structural inequality.

“Cultural competency has a place when done right,” Davis said. “But ultimately if the University of Wisconsin wants to see real change, they’ll shift power to students.”

Now I don’t mind students being acquainted with a college’s rules and sanctions when they enter, but I do bridle at what seems like ideological indoctrination. The indication that “privilege” will be a part of this indoctrination suggests that we have an Authoritarian Leftist program. “Disrespectful speech” will certainly be taught as a no-no, as will “microaggressions.”

I wonder, but doubt, whether there will also be a unit on freedom of expression. So, readers, do you think such training should be part of the college experience?



  1. GBJames
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:04 am | Permalink


  2. Merilee
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:09 am | Permalink


  3. Stephen
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    “This pilot is an effort to definitely create some broad awareness of difference — not to tell people how to think, but to tell people how to critique the ways in which they think,” Johnson says.

    I wonder if one will be invited to critique the way Mr. Johnson thinks?

  4. Cindy
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    “””Disrespectful speech” will certainly be taught as a no-no, as will “microaggressions”””

    Which is, of course, entirely subjective and can be invoked at whim by the person claiming offense.

    Authoritarian leftists do not want to have to defend their views using logic and reason. They want to force the rest of the world to *immediately* acquiesce or be punished.

    • GBJames
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      The same can be said for authoritarians of all stripes, not just those on the left.

      • Historian
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

        Quite true, GB. Who more than Donald Trump has whined about being treated unfairly? And he is many times more dangerous than any college student.

      • Historian
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        Quite true, GB. Who more than Donald Trump has complained about being treated unfairly? And he is many more times dangerous than any college student.

        • Historian
          Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

          Sorry about duplicate posting.

      • Cindy
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        The reason that liberals such as myself are critical of the authoritarian left is precisely because I have always expected better from liberals. I used to naively think that liberal automatically meant pro-science, pro-logic and reason. That the facts of any message overrode the identity of the messenger

        Now I see many on the left subscribing to the same identity politics as the authoritarian right. Eschewing science in favour of dogma. Justifying violence and authoritarian behaviour as “punching up”. Going to absurd lengths to shame those who disagree, regardless of how minor the disagreement.

        • GBJames
          Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

          I quite agree. I’m angered more when seeing it among “my people” than from the right for the same reasons. (I’m similarly angered by anti-vaxxers and anti-GMO fanatics on the left because I like to think of them as being smarter than that.)

        • Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

          I’m, er …, “borrowing” this comment for reference later. Well said.

        • Historian
          Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:45 am | Permalink

          I reject the argument that those on the authoritarian left are liberals. These two terms should not be conflated. People who think of themselves as liberal should not make this mistake because it gives aid and comfort to the right wing. One hallmark of a liberal is a firm belief in freedom of speech, something the authoritarians do not consider very important. To refer to authoritarians as liberals is the same as calling Joseph Stalin a liberal. The vast majority of people on the left of the political spectrum (and refer to themselves as liberal) are not authoritarians just as the vast majority of people on the right of the political spectrum(and refer to themselves as conservative) are not Nazis.

          • Michael Waterhouse
            Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

            Some right wingers and libertarians use the term ‘leftist’, or ‘liberal’ in a nasty pejorative way.

            They do seem to be thinking of the worst type of authoritarian left thinking, up to and including Stalin. Cultural Marxism and all that.

            Aid and comfort indeed.

            • GBJames
              Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

              No, they began the process of making the word “liberal” a slur many decades ago. It was a tool they used to move the Overton window in their direction… They wanted the term to be a pejorative in political conversation and to a large extent they achieved that goal.

              • darrelle
                Posted June 15, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

                I agree. That is an accurate description of what I’ve seen happen in the US.

                I’ve always found it ironic how the same people who have come to use the word liberal as a slur are so often the same people who view the Founding Fathers as mystical heroes apparently ignorant of the fact that many of them were archetypes of liberalism.

              • Posted June 15, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink


                The conservative movement started in the 1950s and worked assiduously reframe the political spectrum and did a pretty thorough job of it.

                My father was an activist in the movement. I remember it well. I even met a few tax non-payment civil disobedients. (They went to jail.)

                When my father passed at 86, one of his former colleagues from these groups came up to me and said, “Obama is the devil!” And meant it.

              • Jeremy Tarone
                Posted June 15, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

                Reply to Jblilie
                “Obama is the devil!”

                Which is funny, considering Obama is basically what a Republican was 30 – 35 years ago.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted June 15, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

                I remember years ago being shocked when I discovered that “liberal” was a pejorative term in the US. I’d always thought of it as a compliment. I kept thinking I was missing something about the way “liberal” was being used, or it had a different meaning there.

              • Cindy
                Posted June 15, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

                What the regressives have done is taken many of the conservative strawmen that have been invented about liberals and made them true. “Liberals want to force big government on you!” “Liberals don’t believe in freedom!” etc etc.

                The regressives, in many ways, are proving the right-wingers correct. It is quite maddening now to be accused of being a ‘regressive’ or an ‘SJW’ simply for…you guessed it..disagreeing with an authoritarian conservative. Because authoritarian conservatives use the same tactics as authoritarian leftists – they claim victimhood and persecution, and with this they seek to force you to live according to their ideals.

                I agree somewhat with Historian that regressives are not liberals – at least not in the classic sense. They do not believe in individual freedom. They follow certain liberal ideals – such as their opposition to inequality in all of it’s forms – except their way of ‘fixing’ this inequality is to force it on the rest of the world. That is *not* liberal, not in any sense.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted June 15, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

                I agree with Historian on that too. And conservatives do love to play the victim, as you say. On Fox not a day, sometimes not an hour, goes by without someone saying, “If a Democrat did this, the media would give them a pass,” or something similar. They’re also constantly conflating all liberals with the authoritarian left. As you and others (and myself elsewhere) say, someone who doesn’t embrace the principles of freedom of speech is not a liberal. (I hope I don’t sound like the not a true Christian/Muslim etc crowd! 🙂 )

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted June 15, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

            … the same as calling Joseph Stalin a liberal …

            Hell, strictly speaking, Joe Stalin shouldn’t be called a “communist,” or a “Marxist,” for that matter. He wouldn’t have lasted through meeting one of the Spartacus League.

            More to the point, I agree that the so-called “Regressive Left” lacks any consequential leftwing bona fides. I believe you and I have had this discussion before, Historian.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        Agree with everyone in this sub-thread. And personally, the one thing above all that I can’t stand is authoritarians, of whatever flavour.


        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 15, 2016 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

          Oh and to echo GBJames (on frequent occasions) – Sub.

          • GBJames
            Posted June 15, 2016 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

            I’m often quoted like that.

      • Linn
        Posted June 16, 2016 at 5:10 am | Permalink

        I agree with everything said here. I would hate to have someone invoke the xkcd comic about feeling superior to both sides, but I do find myself sliding more towards a centre on these issues.

        I will still call myself a leftist because I’m unashamedly concerned about lgbt rights and crimes against women worldover (I’m also concerned about crimes against men, don’t worry). Im also for a moderately strong state, welfare system for all, and for a moderate immigration policy.

        I just find it utterly ridiculous how I’m suddenly both a communist and a conservative depending on who you ask.
        Im both a feminazi and an anti-feminist appearantly. Some pople here seem to think of me as a typical feminazi, people on other sites seem to think I’m anti-feminist because I don’t think we need to boycott movies that show women being killed alongside men.

        The major newspapers I read have a comment section where the absolute majority are right wing or anti immigration. The anti immigrationists are usually fine, but it becomes quite boring to read about muslims in every comment section, whether the article is about agriculture or the decreasing wolf population.

        They are constantly whining about not being allowed to speak their mind, even when all 600 comments are of them speaking their mind.
        Their comments usually go like this:
        “The leftists are trying to deny the truth. Africans and arabs have an IQ of 70. They will outbreed us. We will all live under sharia soon. They will delete this comment, mark my words, the pc-leftist-marxists don’t want us to know the truth.”
        Its funny to read such a comment several weeks after it was written and see that it, like all the others, is still unmoderated despite their fears.

  5. rickflick
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I really am befuddled. It seems these students, (“Kids these days!!”) arrive at the university with the mindset of Archie Bunker conservatives. Do their fathers rage about the house calling them meathead? My early days, (“Why, when I was your age young man…”) were spiced with frequent reading of Newsweek and evenings soaking up the Nightly News (when it was respectable). My generation seemed to come equipped with an awareness of culture that worked pretty good in the college scene. What’s happened to the new avant guarde? Too much Fox?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      Spoken like a true dingbat, Edith.🙂

  6. Gavin
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I would have benefitted from this when I entered college. I went from an affluent white high school near Denver to Stanford and promptly put my foot in my mouth several times. A nice young woman pulled me aside and explained the asymmetry of race and orientation. It made perfect sense and I didn’t make those mistakes again.

    Obviously this could be overdone, but keep in mind we are talking about kids just out of high school who may be completely clueless.

    Also, the nice young woman and I have been married for 22 years. She’s amazing!

    • mordacious1
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      I would hope, with the internet, that in today’s world this could be avoided. People are no longer isolated as they were when I entered college. Regardless, you learn by experience. Making a few “mistakes” and being advised by attentive young women is a great way to learn. Being forced into a re-education camp is the wrong way.

      • Gavin
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

        You would hope, but….

        Now I teach at an affluent, mostly white high school. I assure you, they are as clueless as ever.

        Speaking of clueless: “forced into re-education camps”? Calm down. It’s two sessions, not the Cultural Revolution.

        • mordacious1
          Posted June 15, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

          What? You have something against hyperbole?

      • Pali
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        “People are no longer isolated as they were when I entered college.”

        Don’t mistake internet access for necessarily being great exposure to other views – it is very easy for people to end up spending most of their time online in echo chambers that do little but reaffirm their already held beliefs.

        • Linn
          Posted June 16, 2016 at 5:31 am | Permalink

          Its certainly true that there are many echo chamber. I do feel like I deserve some peace and quiet these days because I spent all my teenage and student years being exposed to all the stuff I disagree with the most.

          I suffer from (or is blessed with depending on you view) by a strange form of ocd that among different compulsions and obsessions, forces me to look at stuff I don’t want to.
          If a see the title of a thread I know will provoke me, I click it.

          I can’t help it. By the time I finished high school, I’d seen every insane and demented argument and evey hateful remark.
          I’d seen people arguing for child rape, for imprisonment of women at home, for execution of homosexuals, for genocide etc.

          So the internet can be a great place to harden your skin, if you take care to venture outside your comfort zone.
          For the students that are too afraid to do that on their own, it is all the more important that schools expose them to what they dislike.

          We watched movies with murder, racism, rape and homosexual sex scenes when I went to secondary school and high school. If 12-16 year olds can handle it, then university students can certainly handle being culturally challenged.

          Force the conservatives to mingle with strong women and lgbt people. Force the regressives to mingle with the conservatives.
          Let teachers speak their minds. In high school, we had christian teachers speaking against gays (and were subsequently slammed by the entire class), sexist teachers, teachers throwing snowballs at us, teachers talking about their views on communism, religion etc
          I hope future pupils and students won’t miss out on this.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      So it’s a good pickup line?


  7. Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I am not sure that such “classes” would accomplish much. Not even sure what it is they want to accomplish. This is school not a job or work area and there is a difference.

    In the workplace they begin mandatory classes called diversity training and this has been going on for years. I assume this is similar in some ways to that. It is nothing new in general but is new to the college level.

    • Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      The “safe space” idea has one important connotation: That people should be free of direct harassment, physical threats, criminal behavior, etc. while at work or school. (Hence diversity training at work.)

      But someone’s idea that you don’t share or like, or the fact that someone expresses a contrary opinion to yours in public: These do not constitute a threat.

      Playing the “I’m offended” card, just shows that you can’t back up your position. (And maybe it’s time to reexamine that position.)

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

        Yes and the Cultural Competency vs Diversity Training may be somewhat different. The purpose of the diversity training in the workplace is to introduce more awareness to the workers at all levels of the diversity and how it actually makes it a better place. Also to respect the various cultures in this diversity.

        The hurt feelings and extreme sensitivity to other views is another problem primarily in the colleges and not covered in this workplace training, far as I know.

      • darrelle
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        Yeah. And it just is not necessarily reasonable at all that the offender bear responsibility for the offendee becoming offended. And even in cases where it would be reasonable does anything really need to be done about it? Hell, my kids offend me nearly every single day. For example when I get home from work and their dirty dishes and crumbs have been left for me to clean up while they are out playing. Who should I call?

  9. Robert Ryder
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong, in theory, with acquainting college students with concepts of diversity and respectfulness. I work at a university where some of the students certainly could use such education. But I agree that there should be an equal emphasis on the absolute necessity of freedom of expression in an open society and at university. Students should be reassured that they have a right to be safe on their campuses and they have a right to strongly object to views they find offensive, but that they don’t have the right to exclude views with which they disagree.

    • Taz
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      …they have a right to be safe on their campuses … they don’t have the right to exclude views with which they disagree.

      The problem is that on the regressive left these two statements are in conflict. They’ve decided that hearing (or even allowing others to hear) “views with which they disagree” makes them “unsafe” – they label it as violence.

    • DrDroid
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Hitch’s passionate defense of free speech should be part of the training. Google “Hitchens on free speech” to find the YouTube video.

  10. Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    What was formerly known as multicultural awareness has now become a covert vindication of bowdlerization. Ironically, tradition and culture is encouraged to act with privileged impunity in the face of any perceived threat from the privileged.

  11. Rob
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    The constant reference to microagressions troubles me. Certainly, there are areas where we might all be insensitive, and learning how to be more culturally sensitive is worthwhile. However, the frequent accusations of microagressions reminds of when I was in religion, and how every little action, word, expression, etc., was judged by some highly subjective unattainable standard. It was a constant life of living on egg-shells, always being judged, criticized, or reprimanded for the littlest aspect of individuality.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      The micro aggression thing troubles me the most too. It seems to me that it’s almost always about someone looking for something to complain about. They’re determined to be a victim and anything they can identify to make them one will do.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        The world operates through microagressions. Newton’s Third law. You step on the ground, it pushes back. Gravity constantly trying to drag you down. Oxygen trying to oxidise all your cells. The only way to avoid microaggressions is to be floating in space and not breathing, a.k.a. dead. And even there there’s cosmic rays.

        Face it kid, the universe hates you.


        • Heather Hastie
          Posted June 15, 2016 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

          Ha Ha! Good one. I might use that (credit given of course)!

        • ploubere
          Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

          You are correct, sir!

  12. Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Identities. Check. Microagressions. Check. Intersectionality, maybe? This again looks like the Critical Race Theory framework — which is a thing, and an academical movement of sorts, and it fits the description most of the time (yes, I’m repeating this, because I want us to see what this is about, and get away from obscuring “Regressive” or “Authoritarian” labels).

    By 2002, over 20 US law schools and at least 3 foreign law schools offered critical race theory courses or classes which covered the issue centrally. Critical race theory is taught and innovated in the fields of education, political science, women’s studies, ethnic studies, and American studies.

    Let’s call it as what it is. Let’s call this movement by its name, Critical Race Theory Movement, instead of Social Justice. Regressive Leftists are CRT proponents. CRT is their new religious belief, and Intersectionality Feminism is a specialized subset of this movement.

    • Posted June 15, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      In my law school, Critical Legal Studies was part of the mandatory program, in addition to a very critical feminist approach in family law courses (this one is understandable in the context of the horrible Israeli family law).
      In those courses, being “critical” means

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      I thought ‘race’ was a naughty word, only used by racists (and computer scientists, as in ‘race condition’ which means something completely different but I thought might be what ‘critical race theory’ was about)


      • Posted June 15, 2016 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        I used to cringe at first, but it is apparently commonplace in the USA, and if not generally, it is widespread in the US Secular Movement (that is, loosely connected communities around conferences and opinion leaders that participate in the atheist-skeptic-humanist conversations, with few exceptions, WEIT among them). Outside of Jerry’s place, it’s even normal in this movement to point out “race”, alignment of sex and gender and such things as an intoduction, apology or accusation. Read a few other blogs and it’s not uncommon to read that, say, Richard Dawkins is “white” etcetera. This is now apparently of import.

        • Cindy
          Posted June 15, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

          Hey Aneris…

          Would you please have a look at this, it is in German:

          I asked for German readers to have a look at it on one of the Islam-themed articles, only you were not around!

          • Posted June 16, 2016 at 7:30 am | Permalink

            Hi Cindy. The article says, on their way to and from school, three pupils (16—18 years old) were repeatedly groped by “southlanders” (mediteranean in appearance) on public transportation, on occasion even followed to their house. They were also called “whore” by them. This harassment was happenening almost daily.

            The girls at first thought that being touched was by accident. They say they wanted to cause no trouble to refugees, but it was unbearable and they eventually opened up about it.

            At the end the spokesperson from an organisation against sexual harassment says this is of course unacceptable, and that lonely men from cultures with a “different view on women” have also brought a “giant package of sexualized violence”. She says this must be made public, even at risk of the Right using these headlines, because these men need proper education that must be taught from other men from their own culture, e.g. at Mosques.

            • Cindy
              Posted June 16, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

              Thank you Aneris.

              So these girls were afraid to speak out about the abuse that they suffered at the hands of migrants lest they be accused of racism.

              Extreme PC FTW!

  13. fjordaniv
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    There is something disturbingly self-perpetuating about this trend; we can probably expect to endure another round of protests in the fall as students, encouraged to be as sensitive as possible, feel increasingly awkward around those with different identities. This awkwardness could be perceived as guilt or bias, and lead to an upping of the indoctrination ante. We can also expect more students to demand segregated facilities to accommodate their expressions of identity (it’s striking to see how conservative identity politics is at its core).

    It seemed like we were finally making some headway a few years ago as the public became increasingly aware of the costs of bloated university administrations. The newfound emphasis on social justice masks this problem at great cost to students and taxpayers in the form of additional course requirements and entirely new (and Orwellian) administrative positions.

    “If the University of Wisconsin wants to see real change, they’ll shift power to students.” What could possibly go wrong if we cede pedagogical and institutional decision-making to 20-year-olds? The may lack credentials and life experience, but they just know what’s best for us all.

    • Historian
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      That remark about shifting power to the students caught my attention as well. With their vast understanding of the world, they probably want to set the curriculum. Such sentiments are not new. They were quite the rage in the 1960s, but the fever broke after the Vietnam War era passed, but, of course, there were always some who remained infected. Undergraduates and even some graduate students are still in a stage of life where they think they know everything of importance. Such being the case, one wonders why they would bother to attend college at all. Fortunately, maturity and the real world will have the effect of divesting them of their delusions.

      Some student “demands” probably have merit. It is the job of administrators to separate the meritorious requests from the absurd. If press reports are to be believed, all too many have failed in this responsibility, although how bad the situation is nationwide may be difficult to determine with any degree of accuracy.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        Yep. By the time I was 18 I thought I knew it all. Ever since though I’ve learned more every year, I’ve become more aware of how little I know. I’m really glad there was nothing like the Internet making a permanent record of things I said back then.

        • GBJames
          Posted June 15, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          Heh. Reminds me of something Mark Twain said.

          “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted June 15, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

            Ha ha! Excellent!

      • Posted June 15, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        It seems to me that the curriculum of early university systems in Italy (and elsewhere ?)
        were established by students, not professors or administrators. Maybe we’re just going backwards.

        “Johnson, who chairs the UW–Madison Hate and Bias Incident Team says many of the incidents reported to the team involve disrespectful speech that was intended to be funny or inquisitive. Those result from people lacking an understanding of the historical context surrounding race, difference and violence, he says.”

        Even though I am well aware of the biases against people of color (and many other subsets of people) and hate the hatred, I would object to having cultural sensitivity training required on the basis of stupid “jokes”. This insensitivity cuts both directions and is especially pronounced in teenagers and young adults. If we’re going to teach about cultural diversity, let’s do it right.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    The way to deal with bias and prejudice is to close the gap between students — not to nurture equal and opposite resentments and feelings of victimization across the gap. I can’t believe that the courageous leaders who paved the path to civil rights in this nation would’ve approved of any program based on ruffled feelings rather than on actions and opportunities.

    It is the essence of authoritarianism to desire not merely to educate and inform others, but to force a viewpoint down their throat.

    Make like Tom Dooley, all you Badgers, hang down your head and cry.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      I’ve been a fan of the Kingston Trio since my earliest memories of listening to music.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Yeah, I like ’em, too. I think they’ve been unfairly maligned (occasionally, I confess, by me) as the homogenized byproduct of a line of folkies going back to Woody and Leadbelly and Pete Seeger and the Weavers.

  15. Graham
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    “many of the incidents reported to the team involve disrespectful speech that was intended to be funny or inquisitive”

    And the last thing you need at university are people who are inquisitive. Inquisitive? Want to find out more? Want to understand better? Don’t risk it buddy; you might say it wrong and then all hell will break loose.

    • Craw
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      One school — I forget which — labelled asking someone where they were from as a microaggression. Punishable I expect.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        All depends on context, I suppose.

        In some circumstances, the inquiry might evince nothing more than collegial curiosity. In others, it could be an aggressive act designed to question the other’s right to be here — much like demanding that a natural-born US citizen produce his birth certificate.

      • Jeremy Tarone
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        I read that some US Federal departments have passed policy that asking someone where they are from can be considered a micro-aggression and could result in discipline.

        However, in the particular cases that were referenced, the persons who were disciplined asked the same person, a person born in America but a minority race, over and over in a disrespectful manner that was intended to be insulting. In fact it wasn’t as much as a micro-aggression as much as an outright insult that was thinly disguised.

        I wonder how much of this is previous jurisprudence that has been misused or misinterpreted and/or enforced improperly, or used as a stepping stone to create a much broader policy that outstrips the intent of the original ruling?

        I don’t see anything wrong with asking someone where they are from, I have asked almost everyone I’ve ever worked with, no matter what they looked like, their speech or the colour of their skin.
        Regardless of where the person is from I’ve found it to be a good ice breaker, I learn something about the person, and if I’m lucky, something about somewhere I’ve never been before. Just some of the places were South Africa, Georgia and California and Washington State USA, Philippines, India, Sweden, Pakistan, Indonesia, almost every province and territory of Canada and many others.

        One of the first persons I asked after I started working as an adult was Ivy. Ivy was a young woman from Hong Kong. She talked to me about how hard it was to get by in pre China take-over Hong Kong. With no social safety systems and the banks charge you to keep your money, rather than give interest. She lived with her parents and three brothers and a sister in an old tiny one room apartment with a common bathroom and kitchen to five other apartments. Her family immigrated to Canada before China took over. She always told me how lucky I was to be born here. After listening to her tell me stories about living there I took her words to heart. She encouraged me to move up in my career.

        In my experience asking people where they are from has worked very well to open people up and get them talking about themselves. It seems absurd to ban the question.

  16. sshort
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    “Microaggressions” to me, feels perilously close to what used to be called “vibes.”

    I remember one writer saying he knew the 60’s were over when he was sitting in the common room of his residential house and a girl walked into the room, looked stricken and announced loudly, “Oh man, I have to go. The vibes in this room are so hostile.”

    He couldn’t put words to it in the moment (projection, narcissistic personality disorder, etc.), but he instinctively knew this endless, overly indulgent attitude towards everyone’s “feelings” had jumped the shark, as it were.

    This is not to say that the course mentioned above is necessarily worthless, just that these attempts tend to go in only one direction, towards more “purity” and more policing until it burns itself out in a fit of vapid hysteria.

  17. Gary
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Is there anyone left who thinks this isn’t just code for authoritarian left wing politics?

  18. HBB
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    If I were an incoming student, I’d demand to be excused from this training because I might find it offensive, uncomfortable, and micro-aggressive (or whatever).

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      Oh, very neat.

      But how could you properly identify it as a micro-aggression unless you’ve had the training?

      You might be offended for the wrong reasons, and that would be culturally unacceptable and might even constitute a micro-aggression in itself.


      • Merilee
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

        Maybe only a nanoagression?

      • GBJames
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

        This whole theory is a bit like homeopathy. The smaller the aggression, the more potent it is. Or something.

  19. wetbook
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I assume universities want to do their students a service. So, if UW (or any university/college) is going to REQUIRE that students take a course supposedly giving them tools for their next 4+ years of school, then give them something more meaningful than shaming people into believing their free speech is really microaggresion.

    How about a basic writing skills course? Or a course on presentation and interpretation of information or data? I suspect that vast majority of students would find them a better use of their time and a better return on their tuition $. As a prof in a scientific discipline, I see first-hand how poorly students are able to use logical construction in their writing, and how inept they are with presenting and interpreting information, whether quantitative (e.g., spreadsheet graphs) or qualitative.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      My university started requiring all students to do a basic writing skills course about 10-15 years ago. Though I understand where they’re coming from, I would’ve been annoyed if it was there for me. It’d be like being back in high school, which is where I learnt it.

  20. alexandra moffat
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    How are current student entering college willing to bow to this demand for cultural
    competency class time? We would have quietly rebelled, back in 1946 – but RMH would not have considered such a thing. We were required to accomplish a wide variety of basic academic courses in the humanities,sciences. What has created these passive, wimpy, victim -students? Elementary school? Helicopter parents? (Well, not passive in their demand for pampering in their victimhood). It will pass- meantime, a generation of hand-held young??? And the concept of free speech diminished….

  21. Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Did it not occur to anybody to teach the kids how to deal with “microaggressions” and what-not on their own?

    Say, point ’em to the stuff they should be reading anyway in their English classes as instruction on how to open a can of rhetorical and / or whoop-ass on those they’re offended by? Maybe teach them a simple poem we used to learn on the schoolyard playground: “Sticks and stones may break my bones / But words shall never hurt me.”

    I mean, yes, of course. A wide-ranging education on world cultures is a great idea. But this notion that a select elite subset of those cultures must be treated with kid gloves…frankly, that’s bullshit.

    And “privilege”? From a bunch of college students? Have they truly no clue just how privileged they themselves are to be attending college? Globally, they are the 1%. They’re the most privileged of the elite, the future movers and shakers. And they want to accrue even more special privileges unto themselves? Particularly the privilege of being free from criticism or disapproval or even high expectations?


    There’re cultures I respect admire, even love passionately, that are as different from the one I grew up in as one can get. There’re other cultures I abhor and hate — including ones far and near. Perfect example…the ingredients for dinner last night came from a wonderful Korean grocery store, but what sane, compassionate human could do other than hate the DPRK?

    …and if these snowflakes aren’t able to take the heat when they’re in college, what makes anybody think they’ll last more than a day in the real world after they graduate?



    • DrBrydon
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. “…many of the incidents reported to the team involve disrespectful speech that was intended to be funny or inquisitive.” So maybe they should teach students to lighten up.

  22. somer
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    So disappointing to see University heads keel over to this sort of thing – I get the impression that in litigious America (and increasingly litigious elsewhere) its going with the flow for the time being but of course its feeding the flames for the longer term.
    this is totally inimicable to critical thinking and its a waste of students time (and if I had to do it Id be bitterly resentful) – but its kind of come to be expected by a noisy minority.
    I hope theres a backlash from most students, alumni and other institutions to this sort of thing.
    What next. Victimology 101?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      Don’t say it out loud – it’ll give them ideas!

      • somer
        Posted June 16, 2016 at 6:51 am | Permalink


  23. Alpha Neil
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I’m trying to imagine how my freshman self would have responded to this. I suspect I would have been tasered before the first session ended.

    Can somebody please get these kids a meaningful cause to devote all this energy towards? Even if we make a society where no one hurts anyone else’s feelings, does that mean the underlying problems go away? Obviously not. Talk about treating the symptom rather than the disease.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      That’s the thing though – I suspect that at 18 this would have sounded like a good idea to me. Which just goes to show how much I still had to learn. The idea that kids that age necessarily know what’s best is wrong. It’s good to get their input etc – there are plenty of areas where it would be valuable – but in this situation they shouldn’t be directing the show.

      • somer
        Posted June 16, 2016 at 6:45 am | Permalink

        +1 and everything goes by enrolments and theres pressure to have more graduations and sometimes standards lag too far behind those priorities

  24. GBJames
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    As a Wisconsinite I watch in horror as our previously great university system is systematically demolished by Scott Walker’s Republican legislative vandals.

    And these yoyos are spending their time fretting about microagressions.

    • Craw
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Seriously? This excrescence of left-wing authoritarian group think is all Scott Walker’s fault?

      • GBJames
        Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        Did someone say that?

        • Craw
          Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

          Have I misunderstood you? Aren’t you citing this as a result of the alleged vandalism?
          If you aren’t then I retract.

          • GBJames
            Posted June 15, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

            You did and I’m not. No causality was stated or implied, beyond the destruction of a great university system by anti-intellectual Republican vandals. I’m dismayed that students are so sheltered that they worry about micro-agressions in times like this.

        • Alpha Neil
          Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:59 am | Permalink

          I don’t think you said anything remotely like that. Then again, Craw posed it as a question so maybe he doesn’t know. In that case I’ll answer for you by saying that no, Scott Walker isn’t responsible for “left-wing authoritarian group think”.

          • fjordaniv
            Posted June 15, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

            These requirements are cropping up in colleges and universities all over the country, so I don’t see how it would be Walker’s fault (nor does GBJames imply that it does).

            Unfortunately, this development plays right into Walker’s hands.

    • Pali
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      And it is far from just the university. These last six years are proving disastrous to our state in just about every area.

  25. Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I wonder, does this nonsense cause people who are on the left to drift towards the right? I find myself thinking ‘rightish’ thoughts sometimes after reading the latest campus crap.

    • fjordaniv
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      I’ve wondered the same. A decade ago, I would frequent sites like Alternet, Inthese times, and Feministing; I didn’t always agree with the authors’ points, but I shared many of their beliefs and perspectives.

      I haven’t been able to stomach most of their content in recent years, and I have to wonder if I’ve drifted more to the center, they’ve drifted further left, or some combination of the 2 happened, though my core beliefs in human rights, individual freedom and equality, and empiricism haven’t really shifted in quite some time.

      • Posted June 15, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        I’m in the same boat. I was a firebrand radical back in the late 80s through the Bush Jr years. As I have witnessed the rise of the SJWs, the Regressive/Authoritarian Left, the Critical Race Theorists, etc., I have watched in dismay as they have abandoned the tenets of classic American Liberalism (or Progressivism) by embracing the odious techniques of the authoritarian Right religious and political groups. I don’t believe they understand how they are harming their own cause for equality and justice with these loathsome tactics that play into the stereotypes promulgated by the right-wing & corporate media about “Liberals.” Liberals stand up for Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Thought and the Freedom of Conscience.

        I remember a famous case of Liberalism in action when I was a kid. The most famous example? In 1977, a group of neo-Nazis announced their intention to march through Skokie, Illinois, where one out of every six Jewish residents had survived the Holocaust or was directly related to a survivor. The Chicago suburb denied permission for the neo-Nazis’ gathering, but the ACLU accepted the case and won, upholding neo-Nazis’ right to free speech. I remember the impression that action made on me. It was a powerful example of how the defense of Free Speech is the defense of liberty for all of us. Sure, the KKK march was damned offensive to the citizens of Skokie, but to ban the Klan would have been harmful to our civil liberties.

        Maybe these kids will be fortunate enough to take a class in History or Political Science where they will be required to read John Stuart Mills’ classic, “On Liberty,” where he eloquently stated, “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” Unfortunately, these kids operate under the “Offensiveness Principle.” Using this philosophy, speech rights aren’t so much rights in the sense of being unchanging, inalienable, and natural to citizens, as they are conditional and crowd-dependent. In other words, if we go by what is offensive to someone, the right to free expression means merely the right to say something until someone is upset by it. Which isn’t a “right” at all. That is pretty damn scary to me as an American. This is why it is important we speak up against authoritarian measures be they from the far Left or Right.

  26. pablo
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    We must live in paradise, if the thing your complaining about is “microaggressions.”

  27. Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    The charitable way of interpreting some of this seems to be similar to the same reasons why universities have (had?) general education requirements, especially such requirements in the languages, humanities and social sciences.

    But perhaps the point is to avoid “collisions” in such classes, amongst elsewhere.

    However, “microagression” needs explanation.

  28. grad student
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if this “training” is funded by a new fee that all students must pay.

    “Welcome to UW, Class of 2017! Tuition is up 8% from last year, deferred maintenance has grown to slightly over 80 million dollars, and our diversity fee is charged twice yearly. This fee is used to help you become self aware (and ashamed) of your privilege. Currently, the diversity fee is set to 150 dollars per semester, and is adjusted quarterly for inflation.”

  29. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    The problem with microaggressions is that attention to this trivializes real racism.

    The intro paragraph of the Wikipedia article “Microagression theory” states this quite eloquently

    “It has been argued that the microaggression concept “fits into a larger class of conflict tactics in which the aggrieved seek to attract and mobilize the support of third parties” that sometimes involves “building a case for action by documenting, exaggerating, or even falsifying offenses”.[6] Recommendations inspired by microaggression theory, if “implemented, could have a chilling effect on free speech and on the willingness of White people…to interact with people of color.””[7] It has been argued that microaggression theory pools trivial and ignorable instances of racism with real, genuine prejudice and exclusion,[8] is a distraction from dealing with much more serious acts,[9] and can actually cause more emotional trauma than the microaggressions themselves.[10]”

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted June 15, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      I am, however, slightly more sympathetic to the concept of “white privilege”.

  30. harrync
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    As an atheist, every day I suffer the micro-aggression of being forced to use US currency with the motto “In God We Trust” on it. I am not calling on the U of W to ban the use of such currency, but I think at least they should hand out felt markers to all their employees who handle cash with the instructions to obliterate the motto on any currency they handle. [Yes, it’s legal – as long as you don’t make the currency unusable.]

  31. josh
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I assume “cultural competency” will involve teaching students how to recognize transgressive humor, irony, sarcasm, tongue-in-cheek statements, internet trolling, different cultural norms, thought experiments, misinterpreted offenses, etc. so as to have a better informed, critically thought-out take on social issues. No?

  32. jay
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile our ‘enlightened’ state of NJ’s Education department has supported a school for punishing a student for observing that ‘vegetarians are idiots’.

    Is this a new ‘protected class’ that I haven’t heard about yet?

    • Posted June 16, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Well, I imagine some places might have rules against calling someone (or some group) an idiot(s).

  33. Filippo
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I might possibly bear up sitting in a lecture hall being lectured on this stuff, and resolved not to volunteer to offer my thoughts in return. But I don’t think the proponents of such a program could discipline themselves to leave it at that. They would be hard-pressed not to press me to take a quiz (with my name on it,)or to answer their face-to-face questions, or to take part in a role-playing/group activity.

  34. Posted June 15, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    It looks like one of those people is applying today to become one of Dilbert’s coworkers.

  35. Steve Brooks
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Students should be told that guest speakers at the university have a right to have their say without interruption.

  36. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    ‘Cultural competency’ – that means knowing the broad general outlines of Shakespeare, Poe, Beethoven and Monet, no?


  37. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Nothing good comes out of authoritarian indoctrination. I fear working with people who are easily offended, can’t take plain speaking & won’t be able to think for themselves.

    Right now, authoritarianism in IT has died (much to my delight) & if it comes back, I fear for future innovation and productivity.

  38. eric
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    One of the Unis I applied to required all incoming students to read The Handmaids Tale. I’d take a cultural sensitivity class over having to read that dreck again any day.

    And in case you, dear readers, are wondering, I’m fine with feminist sci-fi. Early Sherri Tepper, for example, rocks. Its just that in my subjective artistic opinion, Atwood is no Tepper.

    In any event, I guess my point is that colleges have been burdening incoming students with heavy-handed liberial-oriented socialization for decades; this is not a new phenomena. Though the fact that others have done it too doesn’t make this class any less bad.

  39. Dale Franzwad
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    No. That entire program should be dumped and substitute training in freedom of speech and its importance in higher education.

  40. madscientisy
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    Since I know nothing of what’s being proposed, I’d have to wait a year and see how it pans out.

  41. Kun Lin
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    “previously respected…”

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