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The future of speech and ‘microaggressions’ on college campuses (#AT30)

Winifred Smith Hall, University of California-Irvine, Irvine

The University of California has come under fire this summer for a series of workshops for deans and department heads on so-called microaggressions -- "slights, snubs or insults...that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target people based solely on their marginalized group membership," according to a University memo. They can be intentional or not, and range from questions such as "Where were you born?" to statements about America being a melting pot, or claiming that gender plays no part in who you hire. UC officials claim these types of microaggressions can create a hostile learning environment and they advise faculty to avoid them; Opponents say it's tantamount to censorship. Are efforts to protect students from emotional distress limiting important campus debate?

What responsibility should the university have in balancing free speech with protecting against offending others? As college students head back to school, we went with them. For the October AT30 event, Larry Mantle headed for the University of California-Irvine for a lively discussion about the future of speech on American campuses.


Larry Mantle, host of AirTalk


Alonzo Bodden, comedian and winner of the third season of the reality television series, Last Comic Standing

Bradley Campbell, Associate Professor at the California State University, Los Angeles Department of Sociology; he co-authored the recent paper “Microaggressions and Moral Cultures

Doug Haynes, Professor of History at University of California Irvine’s School of Humanities

Greg Lukianoff, President and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE); he co-authored The Atlantic’s September cover story, “The Coddling of the American Mind

Tanya Sanabria, graduate student in the University of California Irvine’s Department of Sociology and a former council member with the Diverse Educational Community and Doctoral Experience (DECADE)

This event is part of the AirTalk 30th anniversary tour.