Oxford to Students: No eye-contact is Racism

Oxford University students who avoid making eye contact with their peers should be perhaps ready to face the music! The prestigious varsity’s Equality and Diversity Unit has advised undergraduate students that “not speaking directly to people” could be deemed a “racial micro-aggression” which can lead to “mental ill-health.” The newsletter was issued at the start of the Trinity term, the third term at the university.

Highlights of Oxford’s Advisory

1. “Not speaking directly to people” could be deemed a “racial micro-aggression”

2. Asking someone where they are “originally” from implies they are a foreigner.

3. “Jokes drawing attention to someone’s differences” is also potential form of “everyday racism”

An Oxford University spokesman was quoted as saying that, “The Equality and Diversity Unit works with University bodies to ensure that the University’s pursuit of excellence goes hand in hand with freedom from discrimination and equality of opportunity. The newsletter is one way of advising and supporting staff towards achieving these aims.”

Advisory Letter Draws Flak

However, some critics slammed the newsletter. Dr Joanna Williams, a lecturer in higher education at the University of Kent, said the guidance was “completely ridiculous” and will make students “hyper-sensitive” about how they interact with one another. “Essentially people are being accused of a thought crime. They are being accused of thinking incorrect thoughts based on an assumption of where they may or may not be looking,” she said.

Williams, an author of Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity, said that Oxford University’s guidance was “overstepping the mark” by telling students “how they should feel and think”.

Tom Slater, co-coordinator of The Free Speech University Ranking project that highlights censorship on university campuses, opines, “This is all part of a chilling desire on the part of university authorities to police not just opinions, but everyday conversations between students”.

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