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“Savage” microaggression rocks Ithaca College

“Savage” microaggression rocks Ithaca College

Black panelist says has “savage hunger” to succeed, other panelists refer to her as “the savage,” and all hell breaks loose.

Ithaca College is pretty sensitive to “microaggressions.”

What is a microaggression? Where have you been, under a rock? (I hope that didn’t offend you.)

One of the inventors of the terminology and theory describes it this way:

Microaggressions are 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. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment.

For some background, see our prior posts:

At Ithaca College, in what may have been a first, last spring the student government voted to set up a microaggression reporting system. (I don’t know if they actually ended up setting it up.)

This semester started at Ithaca College with accusations of campus security insensitivity:

Two Public Safety officers, Sergeant Terry O’Pray and Master Patrol Officer Jon Elmore, made comments described by RAs as “racially insensitive,” “aggressive” and “invalidating” during RA-training sessions Aug. 18. The group of RAs had asked Terri Stewart, director of the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management, for an opportunity to address the issue directly with the two officers, but the officers have not attended subsequent meetings.

The comment from O’Pray that sparked the RA’s anger was a dismissal of an RA’s concerns about racial profiling, saying that it does not happen at Ithaca College. During a simultaneous training session, Elmore and other officers began talking about weapons and showed the RAs a black BB gun.

“[Elmore] said, ‘If I saw someone with this I would shoot them,’” RA Rita Bunatal said.

The comments made by the two officers during the sessions caused two RAs of color to walk out in anger and frustration.

To top it off, a frat event called a “Preps & Crooks” party currently is reverberating on campus.

But the biggest topic of conversation is about the use of the term “the savage” by two famous alumni during a panel discussion of career prospects. They used the term a total of four times in reference to a black alumna on the panel who had just described herself as having a “savage hunger” to succeed in her career.

The student newspaper, The Ithacan (which recently interviewed me on an unrelated issue), reports, Blue Sky kick-off marred by racially insensitive comments:

The kick-off was headlined by a panel of alumni, moderated by Bob Kur ’70, a former NBC News correspondent. The members of the panel were J. Christopher Burch ’76, CEO of Burch Creative Capital and co-founder of the Tory Burch women’s fashion label; Tatiana Sy ’09, director of special events at the Downtown Ithaca Alliance; and Will VanDyke ’05, director of digital accounts at Warner Music Group.

Near the beginning of the discussion, when describing her undergraduate experience, Sy said she had a “savage hunger” to make her professional career happen.

Shortly after Sy’s comment, Burch referred to her as “the savage” in the course of his remarks. Kur also referred to her using the phrase.

Near the end of the event, while Burch was talking about empathy in higher education, he referred to Sy as “the savage” a second time.

She interrupted him and said, “Alright, I mean,” before nervously laughing, adjusting in her seat and looking down.

Burch, noticing she was uncomfortable, quickly responded and said he was complimenting her.

“I think you’re an amazing young woman, or I wouldn’t give you that nickname,” Burch said.

Kur followed up with “She gave herself that nickname.”

“Right, right, right,” Sy said, while looking down at her hands.

According to The Ithacan, Sy felt that the use of the term “the savage,” while not necessarily racist, was a “microaggression”:

After the exchange, audience members began talking among themselves. Sy told The Ithacan she and some audience members were troubled by the repeated use of “the savage” when referred to her.

“It was uncomfortable for everybody in the room,” Sy said. “It was awkward because anytime something completely gets pulled out of the context it was meant for, especially with language as sensitive as that, it was awkward for everyone.”

Sy said she thought the repeated comments were microaggressions. She also said she wouldn’t assume the comments were racially charged.

“I think that the actions will speak for themselves,” she said.

Burch issued the following statement:

“Mr. Burch is extraordinarily disheartened and saddened to learn that his comments at the October 8 panel discussion were interpreted as derogatory or offensive by some in the campus community,” the statement said.

“He sincerely admires Tatiana Sy and her extraordinary achievements and has reached out today to apologize to her directly. In response to Ms. Sy describing her own ‘savage hunger’ to succeed, Mr. Burch applauded her as an example of someone who has a drive that propels her to success. He did not intend to be insensitive and could not be more apologetic if it was perceived as such by Ms. Sy or the community.”

Apology not accepted by Dom Recckio, Student Government Association President Open Letter: SGA president deems Blue Sky kick off unacceptable (underlining and italics in original):

This event was heralded as being a great opportunity to reimagine higher education, and much of the conversation was focused on empathy, yet the disgustingly racist and sexist remarks made by Bob Kur and Chris Burch showed an ultimately fractured sense of empathy. Referring to the one woman of color that had the chance to speak — Tatiana Sy — as a “savage” 4 times was completely unacceptable. Tatiana explained that she had a “savage hunger to make it happen.” not that she is a savage. Mr. Kur assured everyone present that “she gave herself that nickname” which is and was blatantly untrue. With these prominent members of our alumni acting so unapologetically racist and sexist, we have to challenge where Ithaca College’s values truly lie

I for one do not consent to the future of the Ithaca College experience being built on racist and exclusive events like the Blue Sky kickoff. This is a foundation that is utterly unacceptable, let’s look forward and create a better future that is true to a commitment to excellence.

The President and Provost sent a campus-wide Message to Campus Community on Blue Sky Kick-off Remarks:

On Thursday, October 8, we conducted a Blue Sky Reimagining kick-off event, featuring a conversation among four alumni followed by work in small groups brainstorming on how to make the Ithaca College educational experience more immersive. Insensitive comments were made during the conversation. Immediately following the event, I (Tom Rochon) apologized to the alumna to whom the comments were addressed. We regret that what was intended to be a visionary moment for our community was diminished by insensitive comments.

In general, the college cannot prevent the use of hurtful language on campus. Such language, intentional or unintentional, exists in the world and will seep into our community. We can’t promise that the college will never host a speaker who could say something racist, homophobic, misogynistic, or otherwise disrespectful. Even so, we reaffirm our commitment to making our campus an inclusive and respectful community.

We recognize the concerns raised by members of the campus community about the language used during the Blue Sky event. We reiterate our commitment to the principles of respect and inclusion and to the goal of ensuring that Ithaca College is a place where all students, faculty, staff, and visitors feel safe and respected.

Tom Rochon

Benjamin Rifkin
Provost and Vice President for Educational Affairs

You know how all this sensitivity makes me feel? (don’t ask)

Obama kick open door gif


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This is getting absurd.

See, I literally didn’t understand how anything said in this story about the 2 rent-a-cops was racially insensitive, so I went to the full article to see if there was more.

So the first comments are some liberal puke with a racial chip on his shoulder whining about things happening IN OTHER STATES. This puke was bitching and whining about police IN OTHER STATES, and then didn’t like the fact that the officer told him it didn’t happen here. And this is racially insensitive how, exactly?

The other one is just as idiotic. Seriously. Wave a gun at a cop and you are going to get shot. This is not a freaking surprise. Wave something that LOOKS like a gun at a cop, you are going to get shot. This is not freaking rocket science. Just because you don’t like how the world works doesn’t make it ‘racially insensitive’ for a security guard to tell you if you point a gun at him he will shoot you.

Freaking liberals.

casualobserver | October 14, 2015 at 8:46 pm

Microagressions as a concept is the fantasy of progressives who were looking for a new way to “transfer power”, which is the ultimate goal of their every plan. So there is a constant effort to redefine groups with power disparities and find new ways to assign them power. Sadly they are now having to scour innocuous language and project intent in order to keep the effort alive.

    As the saying goes (misattributed to Voltaire): “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”

    I propose as a corollary: “To learn to what extent they rule, find out just how sensitive they are to perceived criticism.”

    Who rules? In America, victim and minority classes who openly tout the “Progressive” ideology (and only as long as they continue to do so).

    To what extent? An exercise for the reader, but remember to include “microaggressions” — both the concept and the consequence — in your calculations.

Where have you been, under a rock? (I hope that didn’t offend you.)

Of course it offends me! I suffer from claustrophobia and scotophobia.

The Professor microaggressed me!! The Professor microaggressed me!!


A swift kick in the pants is what these kids need.

“It was awkward because anytime something completely gets pulled out of the context it was meant for, especially with language as sensitive as that, it was awkward for everyone.”

But it wasn’t “pulled out of context.” The term was used in a conversation in which every listener had already heard Sy say that she had a “savage hunger” to succeed.

‘Mr. Kur assured everyone present that “she gave herself that nickname” which is and was blatantly untrue.’

People get nicknames when they say or do something that resonates with or makes an impression on others. Those others apply the nickname, but the name is derived from an action or speech of the person being named. Essentially, they name themselves. And some nicknames are not flatering. Deal with it.

“Immediately following the event, I (Tom Rochon) apologized to the alumna to whom the comments were addressed.”

Did Mr. Rochon commit a microagression by referring to Sy as an “alumna,” that is, a female graduate of the school, and therefore suggesting that she’s lesser than male graduates, simply for having made the distinction? I mean, what other reason could there be for making the distinction?

“Microagression” -you as a speaker must accurately read the fragile mind of the listener and just because the listener may have used a word proudly earlier in the the conversation that is NO INDICATION the word may be safe for you to use. In fact you should assume that word specifically has a completely different connotation by the time you opt to repeat it. You should denounce yourself for even hearing that word from your listener. Had you been civilized you would have corrected the other person when they said it to protect them from their own word.

Thank you for defining “micro aggression.” Now I know that it is less than “the slings and arrows that flesh is heir to,” and more like “the proud man’s contumely,” which is in my view, inconsequential.

After reviewing Tatiana Sy’s unimpressive LinkedIn profile, I wonder why why she was even on the panel. By posing the question, I guess I am exhibiting micro aggression.

Micro aggressions need a micro apology. Which is essentially none.

It’s clear that there are corrupt people and organizations that are seeking to manufacture leverage in order to exploit other people for political, social, economic, and moral advantage.

Recognize your dignity.

Macro stupidity. Let them eat each other.

“marginalized group membership…suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment.”

The bigger government gets, the bigger the bureaucracy, the more “marginalized group(s)” – special interests – will want a piece of the pie.

Black Americans are constantly whining now, using what they learned in the self-marginalizing topic of Africa-American studies. The growing Hispanic population is also “marginalizing” – scaring – them into retaliation of the micro-aggressive defense kind.

It was once thought that the LGBT “community” was co-opting the slavery sufferings of Black Americans to gain empathy for their self-marginalizing cause. Now it appears that trend is reversing.

Black Americans are becoming like the self “marginalized group” known as LGBT.

“It was uncomfortable for everybody in the room”

Because they associate blacks with savages. Maybe they should buy a mirror to lecture into.

Is it any wonder why these sheltered children cannot find a job in the real world?

What the heck is an RA?

    Resident Advisor. I have to keep Urban Dictionary as one of my search engines in order to decipher the multitude of initials, etc that constantly appear in articles I read.

Calling an African American woman “the savage” seems to fall more under the category of actual racism more than “microaggression”.

I really hate all of the microaggression bullshit, but this situation seems legitimately different from a majority of those non-events.

    Milhouse in reply to RandomOpinion. | October 15, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Only if it was because she was black. In this case it clearly had nothing to do with that, so it can’t have been racism.

    I agree with much of what you are saying. She was describing her ambitions as a “savage hunger” in the same way that another person would say he/she “‘devours’ the NYT”. These two men took the word completely out of context then misapplied it to her as a person. I say they misapplied it not only because they were being stupid and rude but also because if she really were “savage” she would have shown backbone and turned it back on them somehow. (She should study a few Margaret Thatcher videos for how-tos!)

    I don’t think I’d go so far as to call it actual racism, but it was a somewhat nasty comment. I think the whole “savage” bit poisons the microagression argument. She has a real beef, but it has been blown up to astronomical proportions.

I certainly would like a class on how to deliver micro-aggressions for the maximum effect. After all, insulting these delicate flowers is a necessary part of their education and introduction into the real world. No?

I can’t even keep track of all these infantile Leftist concepts, anymore; there’s a new one popping up every minute, it seems. “Triggers;” “microaggressions;” “White privilege;” “safe spaces.” Fifty years from now, one hopes that future generations will look back at this nonsense and simply ask, “WTF?”

Lord…. As a white hetrosexual Christian conservative male he.., she or it should walkin my shoes for a day or 2

People woo worry about microagressions should retire to their fainting couches and let real men and real women run the world. They can flip our burgers.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” – except if you’re a coddled student, in which case make sure the fainting couch is nearby and pass the smelling salts.

Aren’t we lucky – this infantile crew will take over some day. Hope they mature by then into thinking adults ~