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Microaggressions spring from affirmative action, U. of Illinois survey finds

It’s a couple months late, but a March survey by the Racial Microaggressions Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is getting noticed for its surprising findings about one source of perceived racial slights.

Inside Higher Ed reported this week that the online survey of 4,800 “students of color” in the 2011-2012 academic year found:

About a quarter of respondents said they felt their contributions in the classroom “have been minimized because of race” or that they were “made to feel inferior because of the way they spoke.” About 40 percent said they felt uncomfortable on campus because of their race, with “fraternity- and sorority-certified housing” being cited as the most uncomfortable locations on campus.

Just over half “reported experiences of stereotyping in the classroom,” according to the project report. Then there’s this from IHE:

The respondents described how other students seemed hesitant to sit near them in class, how affirmative action was frequently mentioned by nonminority students as the reason racial minorities were able to attend the university, and how they were often called on specifically to provide a racial minority perspective during discussions.

Writing at Minding the Campus, John Rosenberg sifts through the microaggression anecdotes in the project report:

  • “Assuming that an African American student was admitted to a predominantly or traditionally white institution simply because of Affirmative Action rather than merit is another example of a racial microinsult.”
  • Quote from “a multiracial female”: I was sitting in the library and I overheard other white students discussing admissions and laughing about how the only reason stupid Mexicans could get into this school was due to Affirmative Action. As a student of color, I found it extremely offensive to invalidate the hard work and intelligence of students because of their race. It also made me sad that this view seemed to have been readily accepted by all of the other people in the group, implying that racism is entrenched in many of the students that attend this school.

Rosenberg says that “of course” many minority students would not have been admitted at “selective universities” if admissions were colorblind:

Thus one of the reports recommendations — “To have a more informed student body, disseminate accurate information about how, or if, Affirmative Action plays a role in admitting students of color” — is quite ironic. Transparency about the role of race in admissions is one of the leading demands of the critics of affirmative action. If the authors of this report mean what they say here, they should demand that the University of Illinois release data revealing the test scores of applicants and admits by race.

Read the project report and Rosenberg’s post.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.