Student suspended for not abiding by “oops” and “ouch” requirements for microaggressions

February 28, 2017 • 12:45 pm

UPDATE: A reader has identified, in comment #10, the school where ms. Gradstein goes, and I’ve found email addresses you can write to if you want to protest her suspension for being too rational in a school that infantilizes its students. Under comment #10 I’ve also put the email I’ve sent to the university.


Campus Pride is a site supporting LGBTQ students; its mission statement says that it “represents the leading national nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create a safer college environment for LGBTQ students. The organization is a volunteer-driven network ‘for’ and ‘by’ student leaders. The primary objective of Campus Pride is to develop necessary resources, programs and services to support LGBTQ and ally students on college campuses across the United States.”

Now that’s fine, but it does get a bit tone-police-y in its “ground rules” for discussion. There are many, but I’m concentrating on the last two here: the “oops” and “ouch” requirements:

Ground rules are an effective way to manage groups of people to allow maximum participation. This list is not a complete list! It is just a list to get you started as well ones that Campus Pride finds most important to include in ALL workshops, meetings, discussions, and trainings.

RESPECT another person’s right to have opinions and thoughts that are different from yours.

Take RESPONSIBILITY for your own learning.

Be OPEN to considering alternative thoughts, ideas, opinions and behaviors.

Say OOPS and, or acknowledge when you may unintentionally say something and wish you had not.

Say OUCH when someone’s words or actions may hurt you.

Well, fine, but one student, who took a video of her disagreeing with this terminology that was enforced in a college class, was suspended for posting it on Facebook. Her story is on Reddit:

quidbat[S] 101 points 12 hours ago*

I just challenged the idea of the “oops” and “ouch” method in class, and I recorded it. I go to a small liberal arts school that has a hard core PC culture, and a lot of people disagreed with this video, including the fact I took it (even though it’s legal in this state and not against any specific school policy that I’m aware of). It got back to the administration, and now I’m suspended for breaking “student conduct.” I do understand how it was a breach of classroom trust, though.

Here’s the video, and I’m not sure what class this was, or what college she was attending. Yes, it is a bit surreptitious to take this video and post it, but it does reveal how infantilized some classes have become. It’s really embarrassing for whoever this teacher was to be seen enforcing college students in saying “oops” and “ouch”. Can you imagine if real-life discourse was enforced like this? We’d be back in Soviet Russia, where you could go to the gulag for wrapping a fish in a newspaper that had Stalin’s picture on it.

I suspect that this student was punished more for revealing what went on in class than for posting the video itself. Others may disagree, claiming it’s a violation of confidentiality and privacy, and I can see that. Still, nobody other than the student is shown, and it does show is the dark side of authoritative Leftism.

 h/t: Cindy

76 thoughts on “Student suspended for not abiding by “oops” and “ouch” requirements for microaggressions

  1. For me, the worst part is when she rightly says “I’m a liberal person”. I completely understand where she’s coming from. I am a liberal person too, but this left-wing PC-authoritarian culture (that I’m seeing creeping in to UK campuses too, though not as obvious as oops and ouch rules) scares me. But as soon as you challenge the culture, you’re basically polarised as an alt-right fascist, at least in their eyes.

    1. Exactly. That is one of the issues that I have as well with PC-authoritarian culture.

      You will never be ideologically pure enough. Never. Which is by design of course, because as long as the many rules are also vague and always changing, they can find fault with what you say.

      1. It’s like the old (aprocryphal, but with an element of truth) characterization of how the Soviet justice system works. First, you make many contradictory laws so that people can’t help but break them. That way you can drag anyone you want off to the gulag, any time you want, because everyone is a lawbreaker.

  2. I can agree with acknowledging if you misspeak, and if you disagree with a speaker in a discussion. To me this is idea driven, not feeling. It seems silly to me that it requires set words or phrases such as opps or ouch. I did notice that if a person does mean what they say or the other person is offended the right to say it is not taken away. So that means it is simply feed back, maybe unneeded or unwanted feedback, but only feed back. In this case I think it is not sinister but more a juvenile means of discussion protocol.

    1. Juvenile in two ways – first, because it assumes you can’t find a better way to articulate when someone says something significantly offensive. If it bothers you that much, wait until they finish and response substantively to it. Don’t just say “ouch,” that’s not constructive at all. It doesn’t help anyone understand why you took offense or how you’d like to fix the problem.

      Second, because it sort of makes the assumption that any offense should be articulated verbally. Part of being grown-up is (IMO) knowing when to have a thick skin; knowing when to not sweat the small stuff so you can get on with the substantive work at hand. This sort of social feedback seems, in contrast, to force both the speaker and the listener to sweat the small stuff.

  3. “Oops” and “Ouch” – Despite the imperative “Say”, the need to say either of these words arises only when one wishes one had not said something or feels hurt. Well, the key to dealing with this nonsense is to avoid having, or at least showing, such emotions in discussion. Furthermore, do not acknowledge any “oops” or “ouches”, just move on with the argument as if you had not heard any such exclamation.

  4. It’s this type of embarrassing hypersensitivity that makes life difficult for mainstream Progressives. This young lady is correct when she said college campuses should be places where ideas can be challenged. It stings when Trumpites call us snowflakes, but people who subscribe to “Oops” and “Ouches” in college classrooms deserve that label.

    1. It stings when Trumpites call us snowflakes

      SJWs tarnish all liberals with their idiocy. Two years ago, I and my fellow progressives were being accused of being ‘SJWs’ and ‘feminazis’ for non-controversial, yet progressive, statements. Actually, the behaviour of the RWNJs in calling us ‘feminazis’ etc is reminiscent of what illiberal leftists are doing now, when they accuse those who would disagree of being litruhlly Hitler. The RWNJs would say something like ‘oh, you believe in climate change, well, you are clearly a feminazi bent on genociding all of humanity, this conversation is over! I don’t talk to psychopaths!’

      Yeah, there isn’t all that much difference between authoritarian RWNJs and SJWs.

  5. I’m offended by the notion that I must protect others from taking offense at me.

    This is who I am, and how dare you find that offensive!

    …and, now, can we please all grow up and learn how to not take offense at anything and everything? You know? Act like adults, instead of whiney, spoiled little brats who throw temper tantrums when the ice cream store is all out of chocolate so they have to eat vanilla instead?



  6. I am so glad that I teach mathematics; when I say “oops” it is because I made an arithmetic mistake on the board…and “ouch” when a student tells me that (d/dx) e^x = x e^(x-1).

    1. Even several decades ago, I was noticing a difference in the math, science and engineering majors vs. the more liberal arts majors. The STEM students were less likely to participate in social protests over issues they didn’t have strong feelings about, generally less likely to resort to pomo-type arguments when they got upset about grades or assignments, more down to earth, etc.

      I wonder if that difference has grown (or, instead, if the STEM-type students have been assimilated by the Borg…)

      1. I recently graduated from a university with a Compsi/Eng reputation and there was absolutely no SJW type stuff at all. Of course, there also weren’t too many women either.

        (Not that I’m implying only women can be SJW, just that feminist/gender based protests don’t occur when you only have only men.)

  7. ‘Oops!’ is exactly the kind of thing a naughty schoolboy – or Jeremy Clarkson – would say when they know they’ve said something naughty and they know they are going to get away with it.

    It’s like they are begging to be trolled.

      1. When I Google ‘oops’ all the images I get are ‘saucy’ upskirt/downblouse pictures of celebrities getting out of cars.

        This may reflect my previous search history.

        In any case, it’s a word most Brits of a certain age will associate with Barbara Windsor’s wardrobe failures in Sixties Carry On movies.

  8. Wow, do they really believe that everyone is so fragile that “oops” and “ouch” must preface or conclude all statements, lest their feelings get hurt. It would be downright awful if these feelings were left unacknowledged? How will any of these people deal with real life like, getting fired from a job or having a partner leave them? Who will they run to then? Why don’t colleges want to foster resilience?

  9. Joscelyn Gradstein is at a tiny [< 900 students & average class size of 10], intense private, liberal arts seat of learning called Warren Wilson College, Asheville, NC. It was a farm school & it runs the Triad system [Academics, work & service] so I suppose there's a lot of the kids digging up veg after classes! It would drive me bonkers 🙂

    1. Also, if Wiki is to be believed then required subjects include…

      Artistic Expression
      History & Political Science
      Language & Global Issues
      Natural Sciences
      Philosophy & Religious Studies
      and Social Sciences

      …in order to graduate and receive a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree.

      Surely not ALL those are required?

      1. That’s 8 classes. From what I recall of my basic core requirements at W&M (JAC’s alma mater), that’s about right. The requirement when I went there was 2 classes in one subject and 1 class in another in each of three different areas (liberal arts, social sciences, hard sciences). So that was 9 required classes, at least 7 which would be outside your major.

    2. In that case, here are two places where you might send an email of protest:

      Academic Affairs: (828) 771-2083

      Dean of Student Life and Service Office: (828) 771-3800

      I have sent this email to both addresses:

      To whom it may concern:

      I am writing to protest your suspension of Joscelyn Gradstein for posting a video of one of her classes, showing her instructor rebuking her for not using the infantile “oops” and “ouch” language apparently mandated by her course instructor.

      While I can understand how your college might see this as a violation of the sanctity of the classroom, nobody else is shown in the video save Ms. Gradstein, who claims that posting the video doesn’t violate any state or university rules. Even if it did, don’t you think suspension is a bit draconian?

      What worries me more than your overly stringent punishment, though, is how you can promote or sanction an atmosphere that infantilizes students in this way. Seriously: your professors want them to say “oops” and “ouch” in classroom discourse? Is that how you treat students as adults?

      I would respectfully request that you lift the suspension of Ms. Gradstein, and perhaps try to treat your students more as adults than as children. Ms. Gradstein shows immensely more rationality and composure than does her teacher.

      Jerry Coyne
      Professor Emeritus
      Dept. Ecology and Evolution
      The University of Chicago

      1. To whom it may concern:

        I’m writing to send my thoughts on your suspension of Jocelyn Gradstein. As a recent graduate of a very liberal campus (University of Washington), I witnessed and experienced language policing not unlike that done to Ms. Gradstein. It saddens me immensely to think that the ideals that took me to college (the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, philosophy and science as tools for understanding and bettering the world) are taking the backseat to political agendas servicing the emotional demands of those in power. In both my gut and mind, I know this is a misfortune. I’m not sure that you will see what transpired at your school (being yourself in the thick of the group dynamics), but I hope you take a step back and reconsider the severity of your decision. The severity, a suspension, looks suspiciously like Ms. Gradstein’s posting of the video caused an “ouch” in you to which your administration became reactive. But this happens to the best of us. You can still remedy the situation.


        Charleen D. Adams, PhD, MPH, MTS, MA
        Research Associate, CRUK Integrative Cancer Epidemiology Programme
        MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit
        School of Social and Community Medicine
        University of Bristol
        Oakfield House
        Oakfield Grove
        BS8 2BN

        Tel: +44 (0)771 452912

        1. Dear Dr. Adams,

          I can’t thank you enough for writing this letter on my behalf. I appreciate your support in this situation. I worry that the “student conduct” I violated will change rhetoric after this email is sent, but I appreciate everything you’ve done.


      2. Dear Jerry,

        Wow. I cannot thank you enough! I just stumbled on this post. I’m amazed at the fact people are writing letters for me– Thank you, thank you, thank you.

        I appreciate your support. This makes us, as liberals, look bad to the other side. I’m glad I stumbled across a post discussing this video in a way I agree with.


  10. Oops and ouch?

    Meaning that on the fly you will realize that something you’ve said has offended someone, so you should immediately accept that you’ve done wrong and apologize, or that you’ve heard something that you find offensive and there needs to be a public record of it.

  11. How is this anything but infantile? Oops and Ouch are what infants and preschoolers say and what parents say around preschoolers instead of swearing.

    And I still don’t get this “Take RESPONSIBILITY for your own learning.” They are activist its part of their job to educate people.

  12. Where’s the beef? Are we arguing there is something wrong with the oops and ouch policy? It clearly says to say oops if you think you said something wrong it’s not a required response to someone saying ouch. I don’t see why the girl in the video even brought it up, except perhaps to be antagonistic.

    1. Perhaps she felt that having to listen to a series of “oopses” and “ouches” would offend her sense of self worth as a rational being attempting to engage in rational discussion.

      1. Yes it sounds like it’s just infantilising the class.

        It’s not a bad idea, as a matter of common sense, but to make a policy of it is just daft.

        Where I *would* object to being expected to say ‘oops’ is where I said something I meant. Certainly not going to say ‘oops’ as if I’d made a mistake.


        1. Bah.

          The question arises, how much should we be forced to submit to a sort of institutionalised childishness and sacrifice our self-respect? Is objecting to that being childish?

          Looks like a lose-lose situation to me.


          1. “The question arises, how much should we be forced to submit to a sort of institutionalised childishness and sacrifice our self-respect?”

            I don’t get it. The ground rules, except perhaps using the words oops, and ouch as placeholders for apologizing, or letting people know something said bothers you being a bit silly, are essentially no different than the ground rules on this site. Given the context of talking to college kids, I see nothing unreasonable about it.

              1. I’m very predisposed to see something like that as unreasonable, if it’s insisted upon. I have no quarrel with the aim of respectful debate. Imposing a formula of words to be used strikes me as silly.

                And I seem to recall that all college kids in their mid-teens (I’m guessing there) are quite sensitive about being treated like children. I think your ‘snowflake’ comment was out of line.


              2. “I’m very predisposed to see something like that as unreasonable, if it’s insisted upon. I have no quarrel with the aim of respectful debate. Imposing a formula of words to be used strikes me as silly.”

                It’s Campus Pride’s site. they can insist on whatever rules they want. OK it’s silly, so what, no one is forced to take part in their “workshops, meetings, discussions, and trainings”.

              3. This is actually a reply to your next comment – that “It’s Campus Pride’s site. they can insist on whatever rules they want… no one is forced to take part in their “workshops, meetings, discussions, and trainings”.”

                Prof. Coyne’s post states: “…One student, who took a video of her disagreeing with this terminology that was enforced in a college class…” To me, this clearly suggests that the faculty picked the idea of Campus Pride and mandated it in classes.

                Of course, Campus Pride may enforce any rules in their discussions that nobody is forced to attend. (Actually, I strongly recommend not to interact with people who seem mentally inadequate, unless it is your job to consult them.) But when college administration uses their rules to terrorize students who have paid big tuition fees to attend this college, sane people should be up in arms.

              4. “But when college administration uses their rules to terrorize students who have paid big tuition fees to attend this college, sane people should be up in arms.”

                Once again we don’t know whether the student was suspended for the content of the discussions or simply the fact of recording in class.

      1. “And what of her suspension? Do you feel it’s justified?”

        I don’t know enough about the schools policy on filming, or recording in class to make a judgement about that. I know when I was in college if you wanted to record in class you required permission.

    2. Mike, you wonder what’s wrong with this policy:
      For a clear answer, I recommmend you take a look at Eric’s comment above (Posted February 28, 2017 at 1:52 pm).
      Also, you may ask yourself: Would it be worthwhile to read the comment section here if we were to respond to each other with “Ouch” in case of disagreement? If “Ouch” is not meant to take the place of a counterargument, then it is simply superfluous.
      It boggles my mind that educators of all people would not see that this policy does not make sense. The point of being in school is not to learn how to emote.

      1. “If “Ouch” is not meant to take the place of a counterargument, then it is simply superfluous.”

        The wording of that makes no sense whatever the intent “Say OUCH when someone’s words or actions may hurt you.” Are you supposed to know in advance if someone’s words might hurt you? And if you ignore that wording and assume it means say ouch WHEN someone’s words hurt you, that doesn’t preclude explaining why they hurt you. Ouch, and Oops thing to me just sounds like a slogan. An easy to remember reminder to be civil.

        1. I would argue that a big part of “being civil” is knowing when to let small offenses go by without comment. Thus these recommendations undermine civility, they don’t support it.

          Look, I occasionally like to play the ‘grammar Nazi’ as I suspect most people do. It can be emotionally pleasing to spot someone’s error and correct them. But even when I can’t resist the urge and I play that game, in the back of my mind I know that spending a post correcting someone’s grammar or spelling doesn’t help the two of us move forward in our substantive discussion, instead it actively takes away from that substantive discussion. Most people realize this too, that’s why most of the time people simply ignore grammar and spelling mistakes. These “oops” and “ouch” messages seem to be very much like a grammar Nazi post to me. They may make the person giving them feel superior, but they don’t really help the group move forward on substantive discussion. At least IMO.

    3. Are we arguing there is something wrong with the oops and ouch policy?

      Yes. It infantilizes conversation to require specific social markers be used to indicate every error or offence.

      It clearly says to say oops if you think you said something wrong

      Yes it does, and that’s part of the problem. I’m a big boy; if I make a mistake when I speak, I’m perfectly capable of figuring out on my own how to best address it. Maybe that’s to say oops. Maybe it isn’t. Either way, it should be my choice as speaker, not some school regulation.

      1. “I’m a big boy; if I make a mistake when I speak, I’m perfectly capable of figuring out on my own how to best address it.”

        That’s great, then for you this would be an unnecessary instruction that could simply be ignored.

          1. “Did you watch the video? Clearly, it’s not to be ignored, it’s to be enforced by instructors.”

            Someone or something is confused here. The rules are ground rules for Campus Pride’s “workshops, meetings, discussions, and trainings”, which presumably are not mandatory to attend. If you choose to attend them then yes they are enforced. Why are these rules even being discussed in an actual class if that’s where this video was taken? If it was brought up by the student than I’m even more convinced that the content of the discussion had nothing to do with the student’s suspension.

            1. Wow, so now students can’t bring up schools rules, or Mike Paps will think they should be punished or are being “antagonistic”? Isn’t college and your teenage/early 20s years supposed to be when you question things, particularly authority.

  13. Recommendation of ‘oopses’ and ‘ouches’? That must be a joke right? Right?
    If not, it is toe-cringingly, blood-to-facepalmingly embarrassing. OUCH!

  14. The school had to suspend her. How else can it express its “ouch”? She gave them a booboo and offended their sensitive egos, so they simply had no choice but to show this adult who doesn’t want to be treated like a child that she will, indeed, submit to such treatment, or suffer the consequences.

  15. I guess the school violated two items:

    1. RESPECT another person’s right to have opinions and thoughts that are different from yours.


    3. Be OPEN to considering alternative thoughts, ideas, opinions and behaviors.

  16. I give you an exchange on PC between General Mcarthur and Pres Truman re the Japanese Surrender.

    The definition is found in 4 telegrams at the Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri. The following are copies of four telegrams between President Harry Truman and Gen Douglas MacArthur on the day before the actual signing of the WWII Surrender Agreement in September 1945. The contents of those four telegrams below are exactly as received at the end of the war – not a word has been added or deleted!

    (1) Tokyo, Japan
    0800-September 1,1945
    To: President Harry S Truman.
    From: General D A MacArthur.
    Tomorrow we meet with those yellow-bellied bastards and sign the Surrender Documents, any last minute instructions?

    (2) Washington, D C
    1300-September 1, 1945
    To: D A MacArthur.
    From: H S Truman.
    Congratulations, job well done, but you must tone down your obvious dislike of the Japanese when discussing the terms of the surrender with the press, because some of your remarks are fundamentally not politically correct!

    (3) Tokyo, Japan
    1630-September 1, 1945
    To: H S Truman.
    From: D A MacArthur and C H Nimitz.
    Wilco Sir, but both Chester and I are somewhat confused, exactly what does the term politically correct mean?

    (4) Washington, D C
    2120-September 1, 1945
    To: D A MacArthur/C H Nimitz.
    From: H S Truman.
    Political Correctness is a doctrine, recently fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and promoted by a sick mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end!

    1. That is awesome. I so wanted it to be true. Alas, it is not. Snopes rates it as false and provides the evidence. Some of the most glaring clues being the terms “mainstream media,” which did not exist at all back then, and “political correctness” itself which, while in use long before even WWII its current meaning didn’t come about until decades after Truman.


      1. Yup, that term sounded odd to me even before I read of the snopes link.

        Was MacArthur quite so Donald-style crass as to refer to the enemy as ‘yellow-bellied bastards’ on the eve of surrender signing?


  17. Late to this party. I agree with the “this policy is infantilizing” position. I also think it is absolutely ridiculous that the student was suspended because of this video. I was expecting some level of emotionally charged confrontation. Instead, nothing happened. If the video had been longer I may have fallen asleep.

    My take away. Apparently the student’s mistake was in actually explaining why she felt “ouch.” Apparently you aren’t allowed to do that. All you are allowed to do is say “Ouch.”

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