The [“Think. Respect.”] program calls for university students to search for forms of discrimination and harassment on campus, and when present, to download a “bias incident report form” to be submitted to the Student Advocacy and Judicial Affairs unit of the Dean of Students for a potential investigation. Implicit in this reporting scheme is that students who harass will be punished or reprimanded in some way....Here's a letter in response to that article by UW polisci prof Donald Downs (who wrote this book about campus speech codes):
Ironically enough, the university’s protection of students against bias includes political affiliation...
It was good to finally see that a student journalist has grasped the fact that the program, as presently conceived, poses a threat to honest discourse and privacy on campus. The program encourages campus citizens to report not only acts of harassment or discrimination that constitute official misconduct, but all forms of “bias,” verbal and non-verbal, without that term being defined in a manner that is consistent with First Amendment principles. In other words, the present policy amounts to a speech code, as it encourages people to file reports on other people’s attitudes and speech that informants deem insufficiently senstive.Here's the University's announcement of the "Think. Respect." program, explaining the logo, which looks like this:
[IN THE COMMENTS: Pastor Jeff says: "It would look great on an armband. "]
Included in that announcement;
Chancellor John D. Wiley says the campus has seen improvements in climate during the past few years. However, an anti-gay incident in University Housing last spring — one of the driving factors behind the campaign — demonstrated that the campus community still has more work to do.Here's that website:
"We are committed to creating and sustaining a campus community that is open, diverse and inclusive," Wiley says. "We want a campus that embraces difference and where respect is rampant. We will not tolerate bias, racism, disrespect or hate."
To counter racism in any of its forms, Berquam is launching a bias reporting mechanism through the Offices of the Dean of Students Web site.
A bias incident is a threat or act of bigotry, harassment or intimidation - verbal, written or physical - that is personally directed against or targets a University of Wisconsin-Madison student because of that student's race, age, gender identity or expression, disability, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status, or other actual or perceived characteristic.What is a verbal "act of bigotry, harassment or intimidation" aimed at someone's "political affiliation"? What does "other actual or perceived characteristic" refer to? Students who "have witnessed or experienced a bias-related incident" are told to click to this form (PDF) to submit a report. Back to the website:
Students can report anything, from a hate crime to graffiti to verbal harassment. SAJA will attempt to follow up in every instance, contingent on the information provided, to investigate possible misconduct and to provide resources to the victim.Students can report anything? And remember Wiley's statement: "We will not tolerate bias, racism, disrespect or hate." We will not tolerate disrespect? You know, I want students to feel good about campus life, but isn't part of campus life having rowdy debates and vigorous arguments? I know from running this blog that there are people who firmly believe that opposition to gay marriage is bigotry. This program should make students worry that anything other than bland pleasantries is going to get them in trouble with the administration. I wonder if you can report feeling threatened if someone made you feel threatened that they were going to report you for making them feel threatened. And what's the good of encouraging students feel entitled to a cushioned speech environment? How does this equip them to live in the real world?
Berquam says that many hate or bias incidents are relayed anecdotally to ODOS staff. The reporting form is one way to quantify how many incidents take place on campus and provide a method for following up.
Why doesn't the university have a program that promotes debate about tough issues and teaches students how to express themselves forcefully? No, no, when someone mocks your political ideas, you ought to slink away and go back to your little room and download a report form.
(And, yes, it's incredibly ironic that the university also went to the wall for free speech values when it dealt with Kevin Barrett.)
AND: Don't miss the new post, with the new logo!