Counteracting Microaggressions

Microaggressions are the most common way racist and other forms of discrimination are expressed on a daily basis, both online and face to face, so tackling them is very important.

We have a duty to ensure that students who have protected characteristics are supported and welcomed into our academic community, fostering good relations between those who have certain protected characteristics and those who don’t share them.​  We should be alert to incidents where our welcome and good relationships are at risk. Microaggressions are the most common way queerphobia and racism are expressed on a daily basis, both online and face to face, so tackling them is very important.  

Identify and challenge unacceptable behaviour when it occurs, even if it is not directed at ourselves.

The University’s Dignity and Respect Policy, section 3.1 outlines the responsibility of staff and students.


Small actions can make a big difference and you can contribute to creating a supportive learning community through intentional practice. 

  • Learn the names of your fellow students.  If you don’t know how to say them, simply ask, “please can you help me pronounce your name properly?” or “what do you want me to call you?”
  • Show interest in your fellow students, find out what they are hoping for from coming to university, what are their dreams?  The more you know, the more you might find in common
  • If you see or hear them do or say something you admire, tell them!  Show appreciation for their talents and successes
  • Validate their experiences – they might share some difficult incidents or encounters with others.  Don’t minimise them by suggesting the other person didn’t mean it.  Instead, ask how it made them feel and what they need from you to feel better
  • Listen actively – lean forwards and focus your attention on the other person
  • Don’t deliberately leave people out of groups or conversations because they are different to you


  • If you witness a microaggression experienced by a fellow student, there are some strategies you can take to intervene, depending on the situation
  • Ask them, “Are you okay? I noticed what they said seemed to get to you/is there anything I can do?”
  • Say that you find the underlying attitude or behaviour a problem and state the reason why to the perpetrator
  • Try to help the perpetrator understand what they did, for example, “I’m not sure if you know, but what you said is homophobic because X”
  • If you see an ongoing situation, go and stand and sit with the victim and start up a conversation, effectively putting yourself between them and the perpetrator
  • Never join in with jokes that belittle others.  Better still, publicly say you don’t like that kind of joke


You can find more resources to help you support diversity and inclusion in the What Can I Do? section.