Liberal Column

Syracuse University’s bias awareness initiative doesn’t pander to the ‘snowflake generation’ of college students

UPDATED: Feb. 8 at 4:22 p.m.

College campuses nationwide have drawn a significant amount of ridicule recently from far-right media outlets for their fostering of “the Snowflake Generation.” The perception of these “snowflake” students is that they are being raised in an environment that prioritizes self-esteem and comfort over resilience and adversity.

Syracuse University has recently come under scrutiny from outlets including the National Review, Breitbart and Fox News for its STOP Bias initiative, which vaguely defines examples of potential biases on campus. The initiative aims to “sustain an inclusive campus community,” said Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz, dean of the Division of Student Affairs at SU, in an email.

Opponents argue that the policy’s wording goes too far by providing examples of possible bias incidents that include “displaying a sign that is color-coded pink for girls and blue for boys;” “telling someone that they have to wear pants because they are man and a skirt because they are female;” and “avoiding or excluding others.”

The intent of the initiative seems to be misunderstood. The goal is not to punish students, but rather to create awareness and promote inclusivity. Consequences stemming from reported incidents typically include “conversation, dialogue, meditation or education” — not any sort of drastic disciplinary action, Kantrowitz said.

Bias is an implicit part of the human experience. Our minds create biases subconsciously, and we often may not even realize it. While natural, biases can have very real and very negative effects on others, which is why it’s important to become aware of our biases.

Some claim that the initiative creates an unrealistic expectation of political correctness in students, thus leaving them unprepared for life after college. One Fox News counterpoint to STOP Bias was “If they call you a name, call them one back.”

But Anne Osborne, an associate professor at SU’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, disagrees.

“Maybe that’s what we learn in kindergarten on the playground, but I’d like to think that as we get a little bit older, we learn to engage in a conversation,” Osborne said.

Osborne added that she believes outlets like Fox News and Breitbart are “taking a policy or an initiative to the furthest extreme and the absurd, just so that they can mock and make fun of it.”

Kantrowitz, the student affairs head at SU, added that the Student Affairs Council on Diversity and Inclusion reviews anonymous reports and responses and identifies trends to deepen its awareness of bias and improve the campus climate.

The world often isn’t an inclusive place, but we shouldn’t be content with that reality. It’s a smart move for SU to recognize biases on its campus. Everyone — especially young people —  has a responsibility to ensure the societal acceptance of others.

The argument that college students are “snowflakes” is largely a ploy that aims to discredit politically active young people, most of whom oppose the political right. Nevertheless, we live in an increasingly diverse society — both demographically and ideologically — and being aware of our biases is a great way to become more accepting.

Ryan Dunn is a freshman history major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at rarozenb@syr.edu.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this post, the name of the Student Affairs Council on Diversity and Inclusion was misstated. The Daily Orange regrets this error.

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