Bias

Bias Response Teams Thwarted in Their Goal of a Sensitive Campus by the First Amendment

How can you re-program the thinking of boorish college students when their free speech guarantees get in the way?

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The Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice released a first-of-its kind study on bias response teams, a relatively new invention in the ever-expanding world of college free speech management.

Interviews with administrators who police and discipline students who have used insensitive language or display insensitive attitudes reveal their frustration with the free speech guarantees that prevent them from punishing students. The First Amendment, some of them say, constrains them from creating sensitive, inclusive communities.

The study is strangely hand-waving and feel-good, concluding, with little evidence, that bias response teams "created a safer, more welcoming campus community." And it fails to fully address the cost at which all this inclusivity comes. Just one administrator questioned the growing prevalence of administrative speech-policing and its hindrance of discourse and debate of controversial issues––seemingly the point of a college education.

Researcher Ryan Miller, of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and his team dissected how administrators combat bias while still respecting free speech rights. They conducted interviews––of 21 administrators at 19 predominately white universities––focused on answering one fundamental question: "How do bias response team members understand their roles concerning free speech?"

The team defined bias incidents "as conduct, speech, and expression that are motivated by prejudice but which "do not involve criminal conduct such as assault, threats, or property damage." These could include insensitive jokes, slurs written in common areas, unsavory themes for parties, or phrases like "that's so gay," according to the study.

Kelly, an administrator from a midwestern public university, said in her interview, "Of course, the university has an interest in upholding individual rights. But when the exercise of individual rights becomes reckless and irresponsible, and inconsistent with our community culture, our mission, our values—that's when a bias incident response team can be most effective."

John, another public university administrator, defined the team's role as a mechanism "to respond and to restore or push back against whatever threat that might pose to an inclusive campus environment."

These administrators seemed to understand they're restrained from cracking down of free speech, especially on public campuses. One administrator, Jennifer, said, "We can't have [offensive groups] removed…How can we be proactive knowing that these groups will come? What kind of support can we give to the students that are triggered when they see these folks and being mindful of that?" Lisa, from a public university in the northeast, expressed frustration at not being able to respond to hateful incidents because "our hands were tied because of the freedom of speech."

Susan, works for a public university, said, "Much of the criticism that we get is the distinction that we make at the university between free speech and hate speech. Hate speech we don't allow, but free speech we do. That's an ongoing, everyday battle for us." This bias response team member apparently doesn't realize there is no distinction because hate speech is protected under the First Amendment, and not even a legal category.

Administrators rightfully distinguished between forums––if a professor, for example, whose bias against a viewpoint or identity hinders someone's ability to speak up or learn, there is a legitimate problem. They also recognized differences between public and private colleges, and the role that distinction plays in informing their approach.

The administrators also touched on "teachable moments," situations in which they couldn't formally punish students, but were able to correct a student's behavior, and "deanly moments," where students are given a sort of come-to-Jesus talking-to by top university officials.

Team members are right that hateful actions disrupt their campus communities, but their "deanly" or "teachable" reprimanding is incredibly condescending. They are dealing with adults, who should be able to take care of and think for themselves without nannying or policing by overpaid administrators.

Hurtful comments, rude jokes, and insensitive theme parties––like my alma mater's "Vietnam War party" that involved students dressing in camo and drinking at makeshift tiki bars––are in poor taste. But people should be free to be as offensive as they please, and allow other students—the market, if you will—to embrace or shun that type of behavior.

Why do colleges spend so much time and money sheltering college students from offense or uncomfortable situations, rather than equipping them to handle issues on their own? James, an administrator from a private university in the northeast, seemed to have the best grasp on the potential unintended consequences: "If people feel afraid to say the wrong thing, then they don't engage in conversation at all. You should want to create a climate in which people do feel free to inquire and ask questions from ignorance."

James is right, but in the minority of administrators. Most are more concerned by the degree to which their "hands are tied" by the First Amendment.

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  1. I just can’t figure out why tuition costs keep rising.

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  2. Oooooooh – “free speech management”. I like that euphemism. Not at all Orwellian or anything.

    1. Now if some enterprising leftist professor came along and capitalized it to “Free Speech Management” – presto, a whole new major to indoctrinate people with!!

  3. What does this remind me of?

    1. In the Ayn Rand Director’s Cut of Harry Potter, she’s worse than Voldemort.

      1. I had a moment of immense parental pride when my daughter declared that she hates Umbridge more than she does Voldemort. She pointed out that Voldemort’s evil is at least honest.

        1. At least Voldemort has a tragic back story. Umbridge is just pure evil, and for no good reason.

  4. I just cannot figure out why young people are not coming out of college better educated than undergrads from decades ago?

  5. “Hammer this is Sickle. We need a bias response team deployed to the humanities building, stat. Over.”
    “Roger that, Hammer. Scrambling EBRT on Segways. EBRT inbound. Over”

  6. “Great job red team. Get you a case of Lagunitas for that, over.”

  7. “Students” can be 30 or 40 years old, with a wife and kids. Do they really give them a talking to for wearing a MAGA hat or cursing or some crap? Really? I bet they don’t. And of course, who gets to define what is offensive speech? The Left. I find women having abortions offensive. I find people shouting at cops offensive. I find people carrying communist signs at rallies really offensive–do I get to decide? ahahahahha of course not.

  8. Oh look! The privileged white chick has a sign!

    1. And it would seem that she has reversed the order of words on her sign, if she’s trying to make the point that I believe her to be trying to make. If not, then good on her for standing up for free speech!

      1. I actually thought that’s what she was trying to say…

        1. I may be misinterpreting the look on her face.

      2. It could be interpreted either way, but being this is a college I’m pretty sure I know what she means.

  9. We can’t have [offensive groups] removed…How can we be proactive knowing that these groups will come? What kind of support can we give to the students that are triggered when they see these folks and being mindful of that?” Lisa, from a public university in the northeast, expressed frustration at not being able to respond to hateful incidents because “our hands were tied because of the freedom of speech.

    JFC. Do any of these perpetually-butthurt whiny little triggered snowflake bitches ever go to class or do any coursework?

    1. That’s not what colledge is for!!

      /Prog

    2. “our hands were tied because of the freedom of speech.”

      FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

  10. “What kind of support can we give to the students that are triggered when they see these folks and being mindful of that?”

    I guess you could say this with a straight face, but it would take some practice.

  11. “What kind of support can we give to the students that are triggered when they see these folks …?”

    A semester off for serious counseling?

  12. Note to students…. Spend the time and effort to get yourself on that team! The lulz and the fun saying “no that’s ridiculous” will alone, make it worth the effort.
    I say that from experience… My first time owning a Condo, after about 6 mos… and a bunch of declarations by the condo board, both general bullshit and targeted at my new patio (which I only upgraded, but by original design was 4x larger and very private) I went to the AGM and got myself elected to the association. I spent the rest of my time there as veep going to monthly meetings and saying NO! And then showing them why my installing a hotub was good for the condo corp lol blah blah blah

    The only way to fix this shit is engage them… hard and often, not simply to troll but to say “no”, “hell no” and “fuck no” “and here’s why”

    1. Worked for me the one time I bought a house with an HOA.
      Went to the next meeting, introduced myself as a business owner (true at the time), and got on the board. Next board meeting happened to be the one where I got to be President of the board. Spent three years repealing BS regulations, denying snarky complaints against neighbors, and rewriting the rules.
      Most fun I ever had.
      Turns out I had a copy of Robert’s rules of order, which no one else had bothered to read.

  13. This bias response team member

    What do their uniforms look like?

    1. We might assume brown shirts and Sam Browne belts, with jackboots, but I’m thinking more likely hazmat coveralls.

        1. But more importantly, are fundies?

  14. “What kind of support can we give to the students that are triggered when they see these folks …?”

    Valium and….MAGA hats!

    /Rodney Dangerfield dance in ‘Caddyshack’.

  15. “What kind of support can we give to the students that are triggered when they see these folks …?”

    I know!

    Free screening of…’Animal House’!

    Toga, toga, toga….!

    1. Tell ’em they’ve been appointed pledge representative to the Social Committee….

  16. Well…. you could issue a statement condemning the viewpoints of the offensive groups and making it clear that the university doesn’t support them.

    1. Well…. you could issue a statement condemning the viewpoints of the offensive groups and making it clear that the university doesn’t support them.

      What kind of a fucking idiot would assume that any group would support anything said by any of their members?

      “Billy said this. WHY DO YOU AGREE WITH HIM?!?!?” is not something said by anybody rational or sane.

  17. When accosted by a member of any “bias response team”, use this handy phrase: “Fuck off, you guilt-peddling twat.”

    -jcr

  18. Hate speech we don’t allow, but free speech we do.

    That’s a category error. A particular speech act cannot by itself be “free speech”, just as a particular line of poetry can’t by itself be “free verse” and a particular act of love is not “free love”. Free speech refers to the principle that speech should not be restricted, not a category of speech.

    What she probably means is “protected speech”, but that doesn’t sound as catchy and would send people looking for definitions of what protected speech is (and SCOTUS has ruled that hate speech is protected).

  19. The study is strangely hand-waving and feel-good

    What exactly is strange about that?

    1. I’m triggered by this hate speech!

      😉

  20. I love the ubiquity of the “triggered” label. I suppose it once had a meaning in the world of PTSD treatment.

    But now they’ve repackaged “offended” or “disagreed with” as “triggered”, providing a special victim status to would-be censors.

  21. I love the ubiquity of the “triggered” label. I suppose it once had a meaning in the world of PTSD treatment.

    But now they’ve repackaged “offended” or “disagreed with” as “triggered”, providing a special victim status to would-be censors.

    1. I’m triggered by the server squirrels causing duplicate comments.

    2. “I suppose it once had a meaning in the world of PTSD treatment.”

      I have never found any source which suggests that’s true.

    3. particularly amusing from a group of gun haters — — —

  22. It’s not just students who are targeted by “bias response teams”. Just ask Laura Kipnis. http://www.mindingthecampus.or…..-an-essay/

  23. I have finally gotten around to reading Animal Farm and I’m currently reading 1984. Wow, just wow.

    1. Good on you.

    2. They were not intended to be users’ manuals.

    3. Be careful, they might lead you to the hard core; the constitution and bill of rights and all that stuff.

      Spoiler alert; the real evil in 1984 is not big brother, it is newspeak.

  24. The sad thing is that the students at a college are adults. And the college can help them realize that by simply treating them as adults and expecting them to deal with the bumps and bruises of life as such, rather than running the place like an overpriced daycare center.

  25. Kelly, an administrator from a midwestern public university, said in her interview, “Of course, the university has an interest in upholding individual rights. But when the exercise of individual rights becomes reckless and irresponsible, and inconsistent with our community culture, our mission, our values?that’s when a bias incident response team can be most effective.”

    We uphold individual rights except when we don’t.

    1. “We uphold individual rights except when we don’t.”

      ‘I support free speech, but…’

  26. The study is strangely hand-waving and feel-good, concluding, with little evidence, that bias response teams “created a safer, more welcoming campus community.”

    I doubt the people they harassed and intimidated for engaging in unapproved speech felt safer and more welcomed.

    They conducted interviews??of 21 administrators at 19 predominately white universities

    But, of course they didn’t talk to the victims of these administrators.

  27. Like me, do the rest of you middle aged guys want to go back and sign up for some classes just to troll?

    We could have some achievement levels and leader boards for certain acts and reactions gained.
    “most bias response team interventions”, etc.

    Just getting kicked out would disqualify you though. The goal to be how far can you troll and stay enrolled.

  28. I’d like to stand next to the chick in the picture with a sign that says, “Free Speech =/= Hate Speech, But Hate Speech ? Free Speech”

    1. Then you’d just get some fuckwit with a single-digit IQ claiming that math is white privilege– like that shitstain at UIUC.

  29. “The administrators also touched on “teachable moments,” situations in which they couldn’t formally punish students, but were able to correct a student’s behavior, and “deanly moments,” where students are given a sort of come-to-Jesus talking-to by top university officials.”

    I’m scratching my head…. is a “come-to-Jesus talking-to” religious appropriation? Should Christians be triggered by this? Or instead is it a Spanish “Jesus” thing, and should Hispanics be upset?

    Good thing we have this rapid Bias Response Team to call and be informed. Sometimes you just need the help of the experts, otherwise you might miss an opportunity to be offended and hurt. It’s a complex world out there.

    1. I think you have the basis of a whole new victim culture right there!
      The ‘Victims of Victims Studies’!

  30. The research team should do research on the increasing incidents of campus hoaxes perpetuating the myth that there’s widespread “hostility” toward “marginalized” students.

  31. BTW, does anyone know why there’s such a large percentage of left wing college students who look like that overweight white girl in glasses?

    1. They are fed bullshit every day. Bullshit is very fattening.

  32. Bias response?
    Hate Speech?
    If the administrators are truly embracing these terms then they need to be fired, or at the very least re-educated. Perhaps we can create some administrator re-education camps that they are required to attend.

  33. “Overpaid administrators” are the ones responsible for all this madness.

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