“Micropedia,” EDI, & Microaggressions

Here is a copy of this post in a Doc.x file:

I divide this post into three subsections:

  • 1) Some examples of the ubiquitousness and uncritical promotion of Microaggression training in Canadian Universities, including research funding.
  • 2) The launch of The Micropedia of Microaggressions, a Canadian initiative that has received support from the Diversity Institute of Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU, formerly Ryerson University, RU).
  • 3) A critical response to microaggression research by Lee Jussim, a social psychologist at Rutgers University.

(1)Some examples of the ubiquitousness and uncritical promotion of Microaggression training in Canadian Universities, including federal research funding.

1. A recent Webinar event at Dalhousie University (Dal)1 , April 14, 2022, entitled, How to Handle Microaggressions in the Workplace:

Join racial equity educators Camille Dundas and Sean Mauricette as they help us understand the root of microaggressions. They’ll also discuss how to recognize them, how to cope with the experience and how to respond when witnessing or committing one.

The micro in microaggressions is a bit of a misnomer. Because when you experience one, it doesn’t feel very micro. In fact, it can feel like death by a thousand cuts. It might be one of the reasons an astonishingly low number of Black employees (3%) say they would want to return to the office full time. Any marginalized group can experience microaggressions, in this one-hour webinar, racial equity educators Camille Dundas and Sean Mauricette will help us understand:

– Where microaggressions come from
– How to recognize a microaggression
– How to speak up when you observe one
– How to cope when you experience one
– How to respond when you’ve committed one

2. An Upcoming Event at SFU2, September 20, 2022, entitled, Healing Space/Microaggression:

“Facilitators and the participants will have a conversation about the three categories of microaggressions. Examples, cases or personal experience of microaggression in everyday life, including race, religion, gender, sexual identity, disability, age, and culture will be discussed together.”

3. An ongoing EDI workshop3 at the University of Calgary entitled, Microaggressions in the work, learning and teaching environments:

“Regardless of their sources, microaggressions occur often in different contexts and are usually marked by unfriendly, hostile behaviors towards victims. There are cases of microaggressions in xenophobic reactions to persons from underrepresented social minorities. Defined as “…brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral and environmental indignities, intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group”, microaggressions considerably harms the victim and if left unaddressed, may create a non-welcoming environment for students, staff or faculty.This workshop focuses on what microaggressions are, common categories, reactions to acts of microaggression, and strategies for responding to microaggressions.”

4. A guide for applicants4 to New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) competitions (best practices in EDI in research):

“NFRF applicants must clearly demonstrate their commitment to EDI in their research teams, including among students, postdoctoral fellows, co-principal investigators (co-PIs), and co-applicants and/or collaborators, as applicable.”

  • Here are two examples (out of thirteen instances of the word ‘microaggressions’) from the guide, which address microaggressions as barriers to inclusion :

“Develop a good understanding of microaggressions; immediately address any occurrences within the team; understand and make it clear to the team how microaggressions can lead to individuals not feeling included. Learn about impermissible questions/comments that often lead to individuals feeling excluded or “other” (e.g., asking someone from a racialized minority, “Where are you really from?” or telling an individual who has a chronic disability, “You don’t look sick,” etc).”

Ensure mentors receive unconscious bias training and/or other EDI training as necessary (e.g., microaggressions, antiracism training).

5. An article from University Affairs5 that sounds the alarm bell about a rise in Microaggressions occurring in the online delivery of university courses during the Covid lockdowns, entitled, Navigating microaggressions in an online learning environment:

“A working group at the University of Toronto was formed to address microaggressive behaviour in the OLE [online learning environment]. Discussions revealed that microaggressions had increased in emails, chats, breakout rooms and discussion forums. Recognizing the situation required immediate action, we produced a preliminary written resource and webinar.”


(2)The launch of The Micropedia of Microaggressions, a Canadian initiative that has received support from the Diversity Institute of Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU, formerly Ryerson University, RU).

1. The Micropedia [of Microaggressions]6, https://www.themicropedia.org/

This community is on a mission to help people learn about microaggressions without fear of judgement. The Micropedia aims to collect everyday microaggressions and highlight their harmful impact through source-based definitions and real-world examples.

  • Community Partners listed on the About page are:

Black Business and Professional Organization (BBPA); Canadian Congress on Inclusive Diversity & Workplace Equity; Diversity Institute (DI); and, Pride at Work Canada

2. An article from the Diversity Institute7 entitled, The Micropedia of Microaggressions Launches to Shed Light on a Subtle but Commonly Experienced Form of Discrimination:

“The vetted encyclopedia is designed to highlight the pervasiveness and harm of microaggressions with tips to help change behaviours.”

  • Note the officious use of the word “vetted” — by whom and by which method? The word “vetted” used here is a rhetorical flourish. This flourish might be deceptive since its use by the Diversity Institute, which is embedded in a university management faculty (TMU), suggests the Micropedia is vetted by an academic peer review process. It is not.

“Toronto-based agency Zulu Alpha Kilo designed and developed the online Micropedia tool. Content co-creators included the BBPA, the Canadian Congress on Diversity and Workplace Equity, Pride at Work Canada, and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute. Also consulted were many individuals who have experienced microaggressions.”

3. A CBC article8 entitled, Anxieties about microaggressions rise as in-person work returns, introduces The Micropedia, and notes that:

Users can submit entries and since the launch in December 2021, submissions nearly doubled the total number of entries to 230. 

  • Wendy Cukier, founder and academic director of the Diversity Institute, is quoted in this CBC article. And mentioned in the article is that the Diversity Institute “was consulted in the creation of the [Micropedia] resource.” 

4. For more information about the Diversity Institute in the Ted Rogers School of Management at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), formerly known as Ryerson University (RU), and about Wendy Cukier, its founder and academic director, see the following blogs entries:

  • The Diversity Institute (DI), here.
  • Important Figure in EDI, Canada: Wendy Cukier, Founder of The Diversity Institute (DI), 1999, Ryerson University, here.


(3)A critical response to microaggression research by Lee Jussim, a social psychologist at Rutgers University.

1. A blog article on Psychology Today9 by Lee Jussim, a social psychologist at Rutgers University, entitled, The problem with Research on Microaggressions.

  • Jussim highlights three key points he addresses in the article about Research on Microaggressions:
  • Microaggression research does a poor job distinguishing between offensive or annoying behaviors that are and are not racially motivated.
  • Some of the research extolled by advocates as testifying to the power of microaggressions arguably shows the opposite.
  • Research guaranteed to overstate microaggression frequency has been misinterpreted as demonstrating frequent experiences of microaggressions.

2. Jussim’s article is also published on his Substack, Unsafe Science10, under the title, The Dubious Science of Microaggressions.

  • You’ll find a longer bibliography following Jussim’s Substack entry than on his Psychology Today blog entry.
  • Also, a comment following Jussim’s article by jmk789, June 13 (2022), suggests reasons why academics who are skeptical about Microaggressions, in whole or in part, are reluctant to speak out:

When a staff member announces that they will be holding a workshop on “microaggressions” or a faculty member claims that “students of color are constantly suffering microaggressions on our campus” at a meeting, what can you do? The un-falsifiability of the concept works in its favor here to effectively pre-empt all dissent. 

I suspect too that pointing out the issues raised in this post publicly will simply enrage supporters and get them to target you professionally. It seems unlikely as well that such events will be cancelled or even modified to include “both sides” if such objections are raised. If anything, offering an opposing view seems likely to lead to enforced DEI seminars for all to “heal” from the “hateful language” and “hurt” caused by raising questions. Maybe there will be an “investigation” by the campus DEI team and the faculty member who raises such objections will be targeted for “causing harm” and barred from teaching required classes.

Resources

[1] “Webinar: How to Handle Microaggressions in the Workplace,” Event Calendar, Dalhousie University, April 14, 2022, https://events.dal.ca/event/1174-webinar-how-to-handle-microaggressions-in-the, accessed September 13, 2022.

[2] “Healing Space/Microaggression,”Campus Life, Presented by Health and Counseling, Event Calendar, Community, Simon Fraser University (SFU), Tuesday September 20, 2022, https://events.sfu.ca/event/30075-healing-space-microaggression, accessed September 13, 2022.

[3]”Microaggressions in the work, learning and teaching environments,” EDI Workshops, Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, University of Calgary, 2022, https://www.ucalgary.ca/equity-diversity-inclusion/literacy-and-education/edi-workshops, accessed September 13, 2022.

[4] “A guide for applicants to New Frontiers in Research Fund competitions,” Best Practices in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Research, New Frontiers Research Fund, Canada Research Coordinating Committee, Government of Canada, https://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/funding-financement/nfrf-fnfr/edi-eng.aspx, accessed September 12, 2022.

[5] Karen McCrindle & Krystle Phirangee, “Navigating microaggressions in an online learning environment,” Career Advice, University Affairs/Affaires universitaires, May 18, 2021, https://www.universityaffairs.ca/career-advice/career-advice-article/navigating-microaggressions-in-an-online-learning-environment/, accessed September 12, 2022.

[6] The Micropedia of Microaggressions, https://www.themicropedia.org, accessed September 13, 2022.

[7] “The Micropedia of Microaggressions Launches to Shed Light on a Subtle but Commonly Experienced Form of Discrimination,” News & Events, Diversity Institute, Ted Rogers School of Management, December 7, 2021, https://www.torontomu.ca/diversity/news-events/2021/12/the-micropedia-of-microaggressions-launches-to-shed-light-on-a-s/, accessed September 13, 2022.

[8] Krystalle Ramlakhan, “Anxieties about microaggressions rise as in-person work returns,” Business, CBC News, March 5, 2022, https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/new-tool-resource-comabt-microaggressions-diversity-inclusion-equity-canada-employees-return-work-in-person-1.6367312, accessed September 12, 2022.

[9] Lee Jussim, “The Problem with Research on Microaggressions,” Rabble Rouser, Blog, Psychology Today, June 20, 2022, https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/rabble-rouser/202206/the-problem-research-microaggressions, accessed September 12, 2022.

[10] Lee Jussim, “The Dubious Science of Microaggressions,” Unsafe Science, June 12, 2022, https://unsafescience.substack.com/p/the-dubious-science-of-microaggressions, accessed September 13, 2022.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s