Civil Liberties

University's Creepy Bias Reporting System Wants Students' Names, Addresses, Soc Numbers

If you see something, say something


University of Colorado
Bildungsroman—Own work

The University of Colorado-Boulder would like students to inform on each other when they witness "bias incidents," by reporting the perpetrators and turning over all relevant information—including names, phone numbers, addresses, and university ID or Social Security Numbers—to the administration.

What counts as a bias incident is, as always, entirely subjective. An official who spoke with The College Fix clarified that "this in no way is meant to curtail free speech." Nevertheless, the university's website encourages students to report each other for engaging in a broad range of constitutionally protected speech:

For the purposes of this protocol, a "bias-motivated incident" is any of the following:

  • Discrimination — Occurs when an individual suffers an adverse consequence, on the basis of one or more of their protected classes. 
  • Harassment — Verbal or physical conduct that unreasonably interferes with an individual's work or academic performance or creates an intimidating or hostile work or educational or living environment.  Examples may include, but are not limited to, epithets, images, slurs, jokes; electronic communication or other verbal, graphic or physical conduct.
  • Acts of Intolerance — Conduct motivated by discriminatory bias or hatred toward other individuals or groups based on perceived or actual characteristics of race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, political affiliation, or political philosophy or other attribute.

While it depends on the context, these things are all protected to varying degrees. Acting with intolerance is morally wrong, but it isn't illegal—and it's certainly not something a public university should be trying to prevent by turning its students into spies for Big Brother. As Katherine Timpf of National Review writes:

CU Boulder insists that it "values freedom of expression" and "open debate" — although you could see how threats of being documented by Social Security number for saying the wrong thing might discourage people from speaking their minds.

The university's campaign advertising the bias reporting system was equally oblivious. The student government's diversity commission put up flyers channeling the Department of Homeland Security's creepy "If You See Something, Say Something" public service announcements, only way more offensive. The flyers  used supposedly real-life examples of bias incidents, like "Go back to Africa, you don't belong here" and "Your mom must be the janitor 'cause that's the only job for dirty Mexicans." For completely understandable reasons, many students found the flyers themselves to be offensive, and tore them down.

Instead, they should have reported the student government using the bias reporting system. (Kids: Don't forget the Social Security Numbers!)