By Olivia Arnold, news correspondent
Northeastern University’s Resident Assistant (RA) training material incited controversy and drew the wrath of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly last week when its section about oppression was posted on Reddit.
“Oppression results from the social relationship between privileged and oppressed categories,” said the Northeastern RA training section titled “The Umbrella of Oppression.” “In order to have the experience of being oppressed one must belong to an oppressed category. Men cannot be oppressed as men, just as whites cannot be oppressed as whites.”
The issue first gained attention when a link to an Imgur image of the guide was posted to Reddit on Aug.19. The post received over 400 upvotes and 100 comments.
O’Reilly, the conservative host of “The O’Reilly Factor,” was outraged by the section and sent news correspondent Jesse Watters to Northeastern to interview students about the controversy. Watters, who hosts the segment “Watters’ World” on O’Reilly’s show,interviewed students on the street about their opinions of the RA handbook’s section on oppression.
“The school is handing out something to the RAs, and it says white men cannot be oppressed,” Watters said to students.
The handbook, however, acknowledgedthat white men can face oppression due to something other than their race or gender.
“For a male to experience oppression they would also need to be a person of color, gay, disabled or in a lower social class. They cannot be oppressed simply because they are male,” said the handbook.
The students Watters interviewed were divided on the issue. While some agreed with the statements about oppression made in the RA handbook, others believed there are instances in which white men can be oppressed.
“Anybody can kind of be oppressed, it just depends… It really depends on the situation and what context you’re talking about,” said Alyson Devereux, a sophomore biology major.
Joe Borg, a junior media and screen studies major, agrees.
“Anyone can be oppressed, right? Just because it’s stacked in their favor, how does that mean it’s impossible to never be oppressed?” Borg said. “I do realize it’s stacked in my favor, but it doesn’t mean I can never be oppressed.”
According to James Evans, who worked as an RA for the 2014-2015 school year, the RA handbook’s section on oppression is not material that the RAs would be expected to teach to their residents. Instead, the trainings are meant to act as a tool to help RAs facilitate difficult conversations with their residents if a conflict concerning oppression occurred.
“All the RAs kind of take and mold their idea of the handbook into their own perspective and their own views,” Evans, a third-year psychology and linguistics major, said. “If a white male resident came to [an RA] with an issue, they wouldn’t just assume, ‘oh, you’re blowing this way out of proportion because you’re a straight,white male.’”
In response to O’Reilly’s segment, Northeastern sent a statement to the show claiming that the RA handbook’s section on oppression was purposely worded to be controversial.
“[The RA handbook] was intentionally provocative,” said the statement from Northeastern, which Watters read aloud on the show. “This was to provoke spirited conversations and it does not represent the position of the University.”
Some students disagreed with the way that the Northeastern student body was portrayed.
“[The O’Reilly segment] really took us as a university out of context,” Evans said. “We’re kind of the university that respects diversity in that way and respects all different mindsets, but does recognize this whole idea of male privilege and white privilege and even cisgender privilege.”
Photo courtesy of MisterDiddlezz, Reddit