The Rise of Microaggression Reporting Systems
In our cover story last summer on the strengthening PC movements on college campuses, Haidt and Lukianoff noted an attempt by one student group to bureaucratize and punish certain kinds of speech:
In March , the student government at Ithaca College, in upstate New York, went so far as to propose the creation of an anonymous microaggression-reporting system. Student sponsors envisioned some form of disciplinary action against “oppressors” engaged in belittling speech.
A post on Monday from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reported that a microaggression-reporting system is actually now in place—at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), which calls it a “Bias Response” system. Then things got really meta for us at The Atlantic:
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.”
Another Bias Incident Report with a second professor followed, and you can read about it here. If you know of any similar “bias reporting systems” at your college or alma mater, please drop us a note.