Protests Spark at U.S. Colleges Over Micro-Aggressions

In recent months there have protests at college campuses across the nation calling attention to a previously little-known term: “micro-aggressions,” commonly defined as routine verbal and non-verbal slights and harassment (often based on race and gender but also including age, sexual orientation and disability) that is typically unintentional but nonetheless hurtful.

Calls for colleges and universities to implement training at these schools for faculty to spot and recognize these forms of micro-aggressions have been gaining more and more attention.  Training would help others recognize and avoid these biases that come in form of Caucasian students telling a black person “you don’t really act black,” or asking a Hispanic-American about immigration-related matters.

As students graduate and enter the workforce, experts believe HR managers and executives expect this issue to resonate within their own organizations.

“Today’s college students are going to be your employees fairly soon, and you have to be prepared for what this segment cares about and is passionate about,” says Brian Kropp, HR practice leader at Arlington, Va.-based consulting firm CEB. “The idea that they’re going to change once they enter the workforce is probably not true.”

As more and more students from overseas and from various parts of the globe enter the US to continue their education, these types of biased comments may rise. Language learners who want to better their English-speaking ability may find themselves in situations where this type harassment becomes more apparent. At the school level, this seems to be more prevalent. “Overt forms of discrimination are much rarer than they used to be in the workplace though they still exist”, says Villanova University Professor Katina Sawyer. However, the subtle but damaging effects of implicit bias cannot be ignored”.

“The biases are still there, but they’re manifesting themselves differently, so it’s important — from an HR perspective — to study and examine if these are happening in the workplace rather than using the old checklists,” says Sawyer, assistant professor of psychology and a fellow in Villanova’s Graduate Program for HR Development.

SOURCE: Human Resource Executive Online

Lisa March is a bilingual Marketing and Sales Executive. She works closely with LTI on strategic partnerships, business development and marketing. Her efforts help LTI scale the use and implementation of language assessments in schools, institutions, corporations and government agencies.