What happens when members of a university community allege that they were victims of a “bias” incident? A team of administrators intervene—no matter how petty the complaint.
An annual report on the activities of University of Oregon’s Bias Response Team provides a frightening yet fascinating glimpse into the practices of these organizations, which are common on college campuses. Students, faculty, and staff who feel threatened, harassed, intimidated, triggered, microaggressed, offended, ignored, under-valued, or objectified because of their race, gender, gender identity, sexuality, disability status, mental health, religion, political affiliation, or size are encouraged to contact the BRT.
The team is composed of seven administrators, which include Oregon’s “multicultural inclusion support specialist,” LGBT director, and “Native American Retention Specialist.” The BRT’s goal is to eradicate bias on campus, making Oregon a safer place. Bias is defined as “any physical, spoken, or written act” that targets another person, even unintentionally. The team’s posters propose examples of bias incidents: statements like “Thanks, sweetie,” and “I don’t see color,” apparently qualify. (The former is patronizing, the latter is simply wrongthink, I guess.)
The Reason piece includes several examples of reports filed by Oregeon’s secret police.
A student reported a culturally appropriative themed party.
Bias Type: Ethnicity, Race
Location: Student Programs
Response: A BRT Advocate reached out to the reporter. A BRT Case Manager met with the president of the student program to discuss the incident.
An anonymous student reported that a newspaper gave less press coverage to trans students and students of color.
Bias Type: Ethnicity, Race, Political Affi liation
Response: A BRT Case Manager held an educational conversation with the newspaper reporter and editor.
There’s a lot more at the link. I defy anyone to read it and not be reminded of the East German Stasi. Change but a bit of verbiage and this could be reports on “counter-revolutionary thinking” or “bourgeois sympathies”. No incident is considered too minor. Anonymous reporting is encouraged. Third party reporting — that is where the “victim” doesn’t think anything bad happened but somebody else does — is encouraged. And students or faculty who are guilty of wrongthink don’t get a hearing or anything. An administrator has a “conversation” with them where they are told how wrong they are. Anyone who has been on a college campus can tell you just how intimidating such interventions can be.
How bad is this getting? We’re getting students kicked off campus for raping students who say they weren’t raped. It’s gotten so bad that President Obama, speaking at Howard, gave what I must admit was a very good defense of free speech.
So don’t try to shut folks out, don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them. There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view, or disrupt a politician’s rally. Don’t do that — no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths. Because as my grandmother used to tell me, every time a fool speaks, they are just advertising their own ignorance. Let them talk. Let them talk. If you don’t, you just make them a victim, and then they can avoid accountability.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge them. Have the confidence to challenge them, the confidence in the rightness of your position. There will be times when you shouldn’t compromise your core values, your integrity, and you will have the responsibility to speak up in the face of injustice. But listen. Engage. If the other side has a point, learn from them. If they’re wrong, rebut them. Teach them. Beat them on the battlefield of ideas. And you might as well start practicing now, because one thing I can guarantee you — you will have to deal with ignorance, hatred, racism, foolishness, trifling folks. (Laughter.) I promise you, you will have to deal with all that at every stage of your life. That may not seem fair, but life has never been completely fair. Nobody promised you a crystal stair. And if you want to make life fair, then you’ve got to start with the world as it is.
Yeah, that’s how bad things have gotten. The President who at least partially responsible for this mess (having coerced colleges into things like “preponderance of evidence” standards for sexual assault investigations) is now saying we’ve gone too far.
Look, I’m not saying we should let people run around college campuses spewing racist … no, wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I would rather have Nazis marching outside my office every day than have our campuses become fascist police states complete with secret reports, re-education and suppression of incorrect views. We’re inuring a generation of students to the idea that they are always being watched, always subject to discipline for ideas and speech, never to step outside the lines or challenge orthodoxy. What kind of adults are these students going to grow up into?