‘Most qualified person should get the job’ is microaggression, Russell Group universities say

Female graduate wearing graduation gown and mortarboard
Academic Freedom

Russell Group universities have told staff and students that saying “the most qualified person should get the job” is a “microaggression”.

At least five universities have issued guidance or training courses on how to eliminate “microaggression”, which are defined as subtle or indirect forms of discrimination.

Guidance from the University of Glasgow and the engineering department of Imperial College London states that saying “the most qualified person should get the job” is an example of a microaggression.

Glasgow’s guidance, which forms part of the university’s anti-racism campaign, suggests that the statement would be wrong because it asserts “that race does not play a role in life successes”.

Other examples of microaggressions listed by the university include saying that “everyone can succeed if they work hard enough”. The university states that possible implications of the statement could include suggesting that someone only got a job because of quotas, or that they cannot make a valuable contribution.

‘Denying individual prejudice’

Other statements listed as microaggressions by Imperial include “men and women have equal opportunities for achievement” and “positive action is racist”.

Meanwhile, the University of Edinburgh states that microaggressions often take the form of “questioning an individual’s lived experience” or “denying individual prejudice”.

Examples cited by the university include saying of a third person: “I’m sure they didn’t mean anything by that”, or denying that a person is a racist.

Newcastle University describes microaggressions as “the everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that people of colour, women, people from LGBTQIA+ communities or those who are marginalised, experience in their day-to-day interactions with people”.

It lists examples such as a white person telling a black person “white people get killed by the police too”, when discussing police brutality.

The microaggression statements from universities were uncovered by the Committee for Academic Freedom (CAF), a group of academics worried about the erosion of free speech on campus.

‘Expression of lawful beliefs’

Dr Edward Skidelsky, a philosophy lecturer at the University of Exeter, who is director of the CAF, said: “By campaigning against questioning and denial, these universities are advocating an uncritical acceptance of statements in the various, undefined areas that their microaggression guides refer to. The effect, again, is to undermine a culture of free inquiry.

“Universities must not campaign against the expression of lawful beliefs. They must not take official positions. They must not outlaw ‘questioning’ and ‘denial’. They must not undermine free inquiry.”

Chris McGovern, the chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: “It would seem that the woke virus has infected universities in a major way. It is cowardly. Universities are supposed to show their intelligence and reason and they are disapplying their intelligence and reason in order to pursue the woke agenda.”

The universities have been contacted for comment.