KENTtalks collaborated groups highlight microaggressions

Nichola Nease

KENTtalks featured a discussion on microaggressions Thursday night in the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, giving students a voice.

The program was led by the university’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which partnered with several student groups such as the Student Diversity Action Council, the Spanish and Latino Student Association and Kent PRIDE!.

In her opening speech, Jennifer Kulics, associate vice president and dean of students, explained that the purpose of the event was to have educational discussions about the topic in a civil manner.

Rachel Mason, president of SALSA, explained the definition of microaggressions, which are defined by Psychology Today as “the everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”

Mason then recounted the recent discrimination SALSA faced during Kent State’s Oct. 1 Homecoming parade, when the organization was allegedly met with chants of “build that wall” by students.

“We felt unsafe, and many Latinos wondered if they were even welcome here,” Mason said.

Mason discussed the aftermath of trying to heal after the upsetting event, and how SALSA chose to respond with a peaceful demonstration. She ended her speech with the advice to “stay curious about those who are different from you.”

A short video was then played featuring testimonials from students on microaggressions they’ve experienced, as well as how they dealt with them.

After the video, students arranged themselves into small groups to discuss their own experiences, which were often based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, weight and medical conditions.

Many of the stories students shared stated the comments stemmed from their first names, their cultural background, or their physical appearance.

Aylin Chagolla, a freshman speech pathology and audiology major, said she could relate during the event.

“I learned that other students have faced the same things as I have,” Chagolla said.

The groups then came up with several goals they had for each other to reduce the use of microaggressions, which were read aloud. Common themes were to respectfully educate people when they make microaggressive comments and to think before speaking.

Afterward, Dana Lawless-Andric, the associate vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, spoke about the significance of this event. She said that avoiding microaggressions isn’t about being politically correct — (It’s) more about being kind to others.

Kulics made the closing statement and encouraged all attendees to go out and spread the message.

Amanda Michalak, a representative from SALSA and a senior political science major, said the talk was beneficial.

“I think it was eye-opening for a lot of people, and it gave others a platform for their voice,” she said.

Contact Nichola Nease at [email protected].