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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 19, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

Ithaca College Student Government Association statement on microaggressions

Below is a statement The Ithacan received from the Ithaca College Student Government Association in response to the media attention regarding the microagressions bill passed on March 16. 

 

On March 16, 2015, Senator Angela Pradhan passed a recommendation that called for a Microaggressions Reporting System to be implemented on the Ithaca College campus. This bill was presented after a “Campaign Against Microaggressions” bill had been passed for each academic school in the Fall 2014 semester. As microaggressions become an increasingly discussed topic at IC, the Ithaca College Student Government Association (ICSGA) believes it is important to explain the history, reasoning, progress, and plans for the future behind our microaggressions campaign.

Much of the confusion surrounding the recommendation is a misunderstanding of our bill process. By passing this bill as a recommendation, it does not mean that SGA fully endorses a Microaggressions Reporting System to be created. It does mean, however that SGA believes that this idea needs further research and would like to be a part of the process of discussing the issue with our constituents, faculty, staff, and administrators. The bill is first presented as a recommendation and then approved by a majority vote within the SGA Senate. Following the vote, an Ad-Hoc committee is formed and the bill moves into discussion within the committee until they have come up with an appropriate solution. These solutions are then brought to the Senate as a resolution, which must be approved by a majority Senate vote before receiving the SGA’s seal of approval. The Microaggressions Reporting System bill is an initiative that is currently just in the committee and discussion stage.

History

In fall of 2013, under ICSGA President Cedrick-Michael Simmons, the SGA established the Task Force Against Microaggressions. The intention of this task force was to promote the release of the 2012 Campus Climate Survey conducted by Ithaca College, and to create a space for students to share their experiences with campus community of microaggressions, or social exchanges in which verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities are committed that marginalize an individual(s) or specific group(s). These microaggressions pertain to many different groups including, but not limited to those based on gender, race, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, and disability.

The task force culminated to a town hall discussion held on April 24th, 2014 attended by students, faculty, staff, and administration. In this discussion, it became evident that microaggressions were a larger problem than originally suspected, and that serious action needed to be taken in the future to create a safer environment for all members of the Ithaca College community.

In the fall of 2014, under ICSGA President Crystal Kayiza, dialogue between the ICSGA Executive Board and the administration was started on the topic of microaggressions and what could be done to better educate the Ithaca College community. President Crystal Kayiza, Vice President of Campus Affairs Aaron Lipford, and Vice President of Academic Affairs Kaitlin Logsdon have been in a constant communication with administrators since then. Through this dialogue they have collaborated on a timeline for an Ithaca College Campus Climate Survey and worked with the group on a proposal for a structured diversity and inclusion entity at Ithaca College.

Furthermore, Senators Elijah Breton, Joshua Kelly, Meredith Knowles, Jamila Carter, Griffin Schultz, and Vice President of Communications Kyle James all proposed bills calling for a campaign against microaggressions in each of the five academic schools. Each of the Senators then spoke to administrators within their schools and worked within the schools on a plan to address microaggressions.

As a result of these meetings, a statement to be included into syllabi was drafted by Senators Elijah Breton, Madeline Haftel, and VP of Communications Kyle James. This statement was vetted by select faculty and administrators in the School of Health Science and Human Performance (HSHP) before being passed onto the Provost’s Council. After much discussion, the statement was not approved and sent back to the students for further work. The students are currently redrafting the statement and searching for opportunities for dissemination to professors for optional inclusion into syllabi, as opposed to mandatory inclusion the Provost’s Council would’ve provided.

In spring of 2015, the Senators came together and had meetings on how to unite the schools together into a campus-wide campaign against microaggressions. As a result of these meetings, Senator Angela Pradhan, along with VP of Communications Kyle James, proposed a bill for a microaggressions reporting system that would allow students to report microaggressions in a way that would allow them to feel safe doing so. In addition to this recommendation the Senators will be proposing a SGA standing committee to address issues of Diversity and Inclusion.

Microaggressions Reporting System

The intention of the recommendation was to explore the idea of an online reporting system. One idea for this system that ICSGA is currently exploring would be that every student would be given a pin number that corresponds with their Ithaca College ID number. Students would then be able to report microaggressions on this platform with their identity protected, however the committee reading the report would be able to see basic demographic information about the student submitting the report.
All reports would be reviewed by a “Microaggressions Review Committee” as this system would not serve as a legal entity on campus but as a committee to attain both qualitative and quantitative data on the student experience with the goal of improving our overall campus climate. The committee would be comprised of faculty/staff, students, and administrators in order to diversify opinions and have representation from different views on campus.

After collecting the data, the committee will review, collect, and analyze the information so that it can be used in creating a more targeted campaign in educating Ithaca College community members on how to best limit the microaggressions that are occurring on Ithaca College’s campus.

Another charge of the reporting system would be to enable the committee to review patterns within the data and create individualized action plans relating to recurring instances.

This is best illustrated through an example:

A professor makes jokes almost every class period with punchlines that demean LGBTQ* students. The professor believes that this is in good taste, and that the class generally enjoys the jokes. The students, however, do not feel the same way. This creates some tension between the professor and the students, as the students feel uncomfortable approaching the professor about the jokes, because they are worried their grades, future advising, and general success in the program might be at risk if they make the professor angry by approaching him and discussing the matter. They also feel as though if they participate in the class, it may encourage more of the jokes, which is not the desired outcome.
After multiple students relay their concern regarding the specific situation through the Microaggressions Reporting System, the committee notices this trend in the reports. Consequently, the committee discusses potential action plans to educate professors about microaggression in the classroom. At no time is the professor’s identity or action made public.

Although this is just an idea of what a reporting system may look like, the main intent of creating an ad-hoc committee by passing the recommendation in ICSGA was to open dialogue with other campus groups to gather feedback, concerns, and alternative ideas.

Legal Ramifications

The intention of the recommendation is to collect data to measure the use of microaggressions on the campus over time and create tailored educational opportunities that address areas of concern. Our goal is to inform policy and further improve the campus climate at Ithaca College.

Response to Media and Criticism

Within the last two weeks misinformation has been disseminated among the student body regarding the SGA bill process, the nature of the microaggression recommendation, and or engagement with the media. First and foremost ICSGA apologizes for any confusion or distress that may have been caused through any misrepresentation in the media. We at ICSGA prioritize our constituency and want to make it clear that in no way was the recommendation intended to limit students’ freedom of speech.

Ithaca College has seen an increase in diversity on campus and ICSGA believes that the campus climate must keep pace with our increasingly diverse community. The ICSGA plans to continue advocating for proactive solutions and welcomes any and all constructive criticism of the microaggressions campaign. Our organization firmly believes diverse opinions will make this campaign more accessible to everyone.

Please send any questions or media requests to Kyle D. James at sgacommunications@ithaca.edu.

Resource List:
HSHP Campaign Against Microaggressions:

http://www.ithaca.edu/orgs/sga/docs/Bills_2014_2015/14150001/

Park School of Communications Campaign Against Microaggressions:

http://www.ithaca.edu/orgs/sga/docs/Bills_2014_2015/14150017/

School of Business Campaign Against Microaggressions: