I’m the RU student who criticized microaggression workshops on Fox News. Here’s my side of the story

The university should not be spending money to teach us a questionable concept

Hey Scarlet Knights, it’s your friendly neighborhood “uninformed, delusional, wack, white bitch” classmate you may have caught on Fox News talking about microaggressions recently. I’m here to explain my side of the story and why I think many of you misjudged me.

First, I would like to begin this article by asserting that I never lied during my interview on Fox & Friends. Much of the backlash from campus has been about the clip being “misleading” – the segment was a three-minute interview in which I had ninety seconds to explain the situation and my opinions.

I said that students are forced to pay $175 for a two-day freshman orientation. This is true, and implies food and housing are included, and correctly highlights the troubling fact that there still is money going to the microaggression session, even if it is not the entirety of the $175.

I said that Rutgers received taxpayer and student money to fund this – that is also true. Students had to foot a bill that is subsidized by taxpayers, as virtually everything Rutgers does is subsidized by the state. This excludes the few students who get the fee waived due to financial need.

I said that the session was mandatory because to freshmen, they are. Rutgers has never openly said that the sessions were optional – in fact, most incoming students would tell you that they also thought the events were mandatory. Once at Orientation, you are placed in a group with an Orientation Leader and herded to different events with no other options: “Now, we’re all going to this room to learn about ______.” Many students have brought up that they never went to Orientation and still got their diploma, but only an extremely daring freshman would presume that certain sessions were optional once there – and because you’re forced to pay the $175 anyway, it makes sense to go.

Rutgers has never been open about the microaggression sessions being apparently “optional” because if they did, no one would show up. Perhaps if Rutgers doesn’t want those darn college conservatives to go on Fox News and criticize them, they should be more open about their policies – but of course they wouldn’t, because they want it to seem mandatory.

The responses from the Orientation program and RUSA – particularly Evan Covello’s straw man-riddled response – are weak and shoddy attempts to clear the University of any wrongdoing. No one can speak over my experience and tell me what happened during my orientation sessions when they were not there.

For those of you, like Covello, who thought my comments came out of left field, I’d like to explain why I had a problem with the Orientation. We were instructed what we should be offended by and what we should say by an institution that is supported by the government, and we were discouraged from discussing or questioning the material – which is wrong. I think the idea that you shan’t ask a minority where they are from because it implies they are not from America — which is what I was told — is wrong. We were pressured never to use certain words (“crazy” stigmatizes the mentally ill, for example) lest we became oppressors. If Covello wants to do his job as RUSA President and sit down and discuss these issues with me, I would be more than glad to chat with him.

The rest of the backlash from the campus is just an unfortunate circumstance of Rutgers students being incapable of handling a conservative opinion. What I said on Fox News was not fascist, oppressive, radical, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or bigoted – it was a commonplace conservative opinion. In fact, plenty of people on the left criticize microaggression theory and identity politics as well. When I claimed that Rutgers was discouraging free speech, I was alluding to the fact that any individual can shut down speech if they claim it’s “offensive” enough and Rutgers is providing students with a dangerous tool by encouraging that.

Several scholars have backed up these claims. Feminist Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute has argued several times that the microaggression theory is harmful to society and shames, intimidates, and silences students from taking part in civil discourse. Amitai Etzioni of George Washington University has argued that it is more beneficial to ignore microaggressions and divert efforts towards preventing actual hate speech and physical violence. Scott O. Lilienfeld of Emory University even argues that the microaggression theory is inadequately supported by hard data and too underdeveloped to warrant real-world application. There are plenty of articles that support the criticism of microaggression theory from both the harmfulness angle and the free speech angle.

I am pleased that the Fox News segment helped spark a debate that had not taken place at Rutgers before. I respect all of my peers’ opinions and welcome criticism – I just expect that they will be able to handle criticism back.

I think it is most important that Rutgers students maintain (or start maintaining) civility and respect each others’ opinions to help reach solutions that are best for all of us. I, as an Italian-American conservative, am just as entitled to go to Rutgers and have opinions as you, whatever your identity and political leaning is. As a school that describes itself as “revolutionary”, let’s be the leaders in how to handle modern-day political discourse.

This article was written by a guest contributor to The Tab Rutgers. We’re a platform for debate, If you have an opinion you’d like to share, please email [email protected]

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