If I had known that eye contact can lead to mental health problems, I could have missed out on so many meaningless courses in school. Sick day anyone?
Students who avoid making eye contact with their peers could be guilty of racism, according to Oxford University’s latest guidance.
The university’s Equality and Diversity Unit has advised students that “not speaking directly to people” could be deemed a “racial microaggression” which can lead to “mental ill-health”.
Other examples of “everyday racism” include asking someone where they are “originally” from, students were told.
Oxford University’s Equality and Diversity Unit explains in its Trinity term newsletter that “some people who do these things may be entirely well-meaning, and would be mortified to realise that they had caused offence.
“But this is of little consequence if a possible effect of their words or actions is to suggest to people that they may fulfil a negative stereotype, or do not belong”.
Universities have been accused of pandering to the “snowflake generation” of students, who are seen as over-sensitive and quick to take offence.
Dr Joanna Williams, a lecturer in higher education 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,” Dr Williams told The Telegraph. “They are being accused of thinking incorrect thoughts based on an assumption of where they may or may not be looking.”
Dr Williams, who is 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”.