Virginia Tech lays out rules of engagement for Intercultural Engagement Center welcome back event
‘Please do not approach someone with a red sticker’
Virginia Tech’s Intercultural Engagement Center is set to host a large welcome back campuswide gathering today among students, faculty and staff that will employ nametags with color-coded dots – green, yellow and red – so participants can indicate whether they are comfortable being talked to or not.
“[Y]ou’ll be creating a nametag for yourself as you join us in community,” the center states on its Fall 2016 Welcome Receptions and Community Kick-Off Facebook page. “ … Add a green, yellow, or red dot to indicate your color communication.”
Organizers then go on to explain:
GREEN – The person is actively seeking communication; they may have trouble initiating conversations, but want to be approached by people interested in talking.
YELLOW – The person only wants to talk to people they recognize, not by strangers or people they only know from the internet. The person might approach strangers to talk, and that is okay; the approached person is welcome to talk back if that is the case.
RED – The person does not want to talk to anyone, or only wants to talk to a few people. Please do not approach someone with a red sticker.
In effect, an event hosted by a campus “engagement” center is concerned some “engagement” might make students and faculty feel uncomfortable, and will use the nametags as a way to turn the intercultural gathering into something of a safe space.
Phone calls and emails by The College Fix to the campus spokesman on why this precaution was necessary were not immediately responded to late Wednesday.
At least one Virginia Tech student said he thinks the nametag communication system is ridiculous for a college event.
“They don’t want to deal with any contradictions inside of their bubble and the result is an echo-chamber,” said Nicholas Korpics, a senior at Virginia Tech. “No one can possibly be engaged if you have to tip-toe around everyone.”
In addition to the dot system, guests have also been asked to write their preferred gender pronouns, as “not assuming others’ pronouns is a way to be inclusive of trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people,” organizers state on Facebook.
Participants may add an additional blue dot if they would prefer to avoid being photographed, though the school warns it may not be possible in large group settings.
Korpics said the nametags are not the only example of paternalistic administration he’s experienced at the school.
“In the past the administration has banned us from wearing certain Halloween costumes, pulled funding from conservative groups, and disinvited speakers, even from within the community, for being too conservative,” he told The Fix. “I just hope that one day they will allow us to be intellectually diverse.”
Editor’s Note: A photo of the actual instructions displayed at the event has been added.