Saturday, June 25, 2016

Academic Fascism: Bias Incident Reporting

From the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:
The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) appears to have investigated two professors for asking students to simply consider all sides of the debate over today’s most controversial political and social issues. The investigations were prompted by student complaints made through UNC’s “Bias Response” system, which encourages students to file online reports of any “offensive classroom environment” to administrators, who may then intervene with the theoretically offending faculty.

The Bias Response Team’s reports are troubling—both in sheer quantity, and substance.

According to UNC documents obtained by Heat Street under Colorado’s Open Records Act, a professor asked his students to read The Atlantic’s “The Coddling of the American Mind” (co-authored by FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff). The piece warns that the growing institutionalization of aversion to presenting views that students may find offensive or disagreeable deprives students of the opportunity to confront views they disagree with. The professor engaged students in a discussion about opposing viewpoints on, among other things, transgender issues, prompting one student to file a Bias Incident Report with university administrators. As characterized in the student’s complaint, the professor argued that “transgender is not a real thing, and no one can truly feel like they are born in the wrong body.”

The Bias Response Team contacted the professor, who responded that he was simply playing devil’s advocate to encourage a discussion amongst his students. University administrators encouraged him to avoid doing so:
A member of the Bias Response Team met with the professor, the report says, and “advised him not to revisit transgender issues in his classroom if possible to avoid the students expressed concerns.” The Bias Response Team also “told him to avoid stating opinions (his or theirs) on the topic as he had previously when working from the Atlantic article.”
This is a stunning violation of academic freedom. Campus bureaucrats telling a professor what he or she may say in class is outrageous. It would be out of bounds if a biased professor was told be more balanced. Telling a professor engaged in a balanced discussion to stifle discussion because somebody might hear something they dislike goes beyond outrageous.

The article goes on:
In another incident report, the Bias Response Team noted a “conversation” with a professor who encouraged students to question rhetoric about gay rights, assigning students to take a position and debate it in class. Heat Street summarized the encounter using the Bias Response Team’s notes:
“Specifically there were two topics of debate that triggered them and personally felt like an attack on their identity (GodHatesFags.com: is this harmful? Is this acceptable? Is this Christianity? And Gay Marriage: should it be legal? Is homosexuality immoral as Christians suggest?)”

The student, whose name is redacted and who is referred to as “they” in the report, complained that “other students are required to watch the in-class debate and hear both arguments presented.”

“I do not believe that students should be required to listen to their own rights and personhood debated,” the student wrote. “[This professor] should remove these topics from the list of debate topics. Debating the personhood of an entire minority demographic should not be a classroom exercise, as the classroom should not be an actively hostile space for people with underprivileged identities.
This is pure, distilled politically correct intolerance. A gay student claims he has an “underprivileged identity” and therefore should be protected from hearing arguments he does not like. He claims that his “personhood” is being challenged if he merely hears people disputing one of his favored public policies.

In the first place, gays are not an “underprivileged identity” on a modern university campus. They are a petted and pandered to minority, even at a supposed Catholic university like Marquette. But protecting the supposedly tender sensibilities of gays (or any other politically correct victim group) is to educate them poorly. It implies they will never learn to intellectually engage arguments they disagree with, but only whine and complain and demean the people who make those arguments.

This mentality is common at Marquette. It was shown when a Philosophy instructor told a student he could not disagree with gay marriage because that would be “homophobic” and would “offend” any gay students in class. When the student complained to Marquette, he was greeted with hostility. The instructor, one Cheryl Abbate, not only was not admonished or reprimanded for her behavior, she was told that the student was the problem. When we reported this misconduct on this blog, Marquette began trying to fire us.

And when an alumnus named Aaron Ledesma chimed in with an essay insisting that opposition to gay marriage ought to be banned at Marquette, the university “liked” the Tweet.

Marquette’s Policy

It won’t surprise readers to know that Marquette has a Bias Incident Reporting system. Marquette has everything that politically correct universities have these days. Marquette defines a “bias incident” as follows:
A bias incident is any discriminatory or hurtful act that appears to be motivated or is perceived by the victim or victims to be motivated by race, ethnicity, religion, age, national origin, sex, disability, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, veteran or socioeconomic status. To be considered a bias incident, the act is not required to be a crime under any federal, state or local statutes. [emphasis added]
In the first place, an “act” can be a mere expression of opinion, and the mere “perception” that it is motivated by race, ethnicity, etc. is enough to make it a “bias incident.”

The Marquette statement is a bit vague about what happens when such a “bias incident” is reported, but it makes it clear that anybody who is reported could be in trouble.

Of course, real incidents of discrimination and harassment (but not mere differences of opinion) have always been something that could be reported to authorities at Marquette (and at any other university). But the current system resembles nothing so much as totalitarian political systems where authorities encourage citizens to rat out thoughts and ideas contrary to the orthodoxy of the regime.

And no, that is not hyperbole.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Bill Waldron said...

Who is protecting *alumni* from incidents perceived as hurtful? MU has caused me much distress over the years since graduation.

10:20 AM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I'm curious as to what the various labor unions have to say about this. Surely they must be doing something to protect teacher's rights (I know Wisconsin is a right-to-work state, but still) in the classroom.

7:29 AM  

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