University stays mum on tattling policy
Friday, June 17, 2016
The University of Oregon is resisting public scrutiny of its controversial progam that allows students to report claims of bias to school administrators.
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reporter Adam Steinbaugh filed a public records request with the university concerning their “Bias Report Teams,” or BRT’s.
Students at UO can fill out an online complaint about “hate speech” or other incidents that trigger an investigation.
FIRE filed a public records request in March seeking documents related to the complaints and to the school’s response.
Steinbaugh says face-to-face interventions with students accused of bias or offending speech can threaten their First Amendment rights.
“The federal government is slowly moving towards pushing colleges to investigate any sort of report in certain contexts,” he explains. “So when you have an investigation, at least where that investigation requires the reported student to meet with an administrator, that can have a chilling effect.”
In a story about bias reporting on college campuses, FIRE lists examples of such questionable incidents. One complaint described how the student newspaper needed to feature more “trans students” and “students of color,” which prompted a meeting with a BRT “case manager” and newspaper staff.
Other examples at UO are vague complaints about a “sexist” faulty member; mean sorority members; and a faculty member who “belittled” “trigger warnings,” among others.
FIRE wants to know how UO responded to such complaints.
Steinbaugh fears malicious individuals or groups will be able to use bias reporting policies to shut down unpopular or minority viewpoints.
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