PC Culture

University of Michigan Removes Reliance on ‘Feelings’ from Bullying Policy

Campus of University of Michigan (Wikimedia)
Saying that ‘the most important indication of bias is your own feelings’ is not just slightly off, it’s completely incorrect.

The University of Michigan made some changes after the Department of Justice filed a statement backing a case against the school’s anti-harassment policy — removing a part of the policy that said that “the most important indication of bias is your own feelings.”

In a statement of interest for the Speech First, Inc., v. Schlissel case, the Justice Department stated that the university’s anti-bullying and harassment policy was “unconstitutional because it offers no clear, objective definitions of the violations” but rather “refers students to a wide array of ‘examples of various interpretations that exist for the terms,’ many of which depend on a listener’s subjective reaction to speech.”

The department’s brief, which was filed on Monday, also specifically took issue with the university’s Bias Response Team, arguing that the school’s subjective definition of “bias” gave students’ feelings too much authority in stifling speech.

“Our nation’s public universities and colleges were established to promote diversity of thought and robust debate, so we must not accept when they instead use their authority to stifle these principles on their campuses,” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions is committed to promoting free speech on college campuses, and the Department is proud to have played a role in the numerous campus free speech victories this year.”

“The Justice Department will continue to seek opportunities to defend free speech — no matter the political ideology espoused — in order to defend our nation’s great traditions and the ability of its citizens to engage in meaningful discourse,” O’Malley continued.

U of M’s new definitions for bullying and harassment are now the same as those found in Michigan law.

Now, it’s obviously a good thing that the University of Michigan changed this ridiculous explanation of what “bias” means, but it shouldn’t have taken a statement from the Department of Justice for it to do so. Saying that “the most important indication of bias is your own feelings” is not just slightly off, it’s completely incorrect. Feelings aren’t facts — they’re feelings. It’s entirely possible for there to be an instance where a student may feel that he or she has been a victim of bias, even though the reality is that he or she has not been one. A policy like this would put that student’s feelings about the situation — wrong or not — above the actual reality of it. As important as feelings are, it’s never good to make them more important than reality — especially when it could result in getting another person in trouble for something that he or she didn’t even really do.

As important as feelings are, it’s never good to make them more important than reality.

The president of Speech First, Nicole Neily, told Reason that U of M’s language change does not mean that the case is going to be dropped.

“The University’s reply brief is due this Friday (June 15), and our response is due June 29,” she said. “We look forward to our day in court.”

Most Popular

Religion

The Catholic Church’s Rotherham

‘We are deeply saddened.” So begin the many perfunctory statements of many Catholic bishops today in response to the Pennsylvania grand-jury report detailing how priests in that state abused children and how bishops shuffled these priests around. What deeply saddens these men? The rape of children, the ... Read More
Elections

My Journey into the Heart of Obama-Trump Country

After eight years of displeasure with Barack Obama’s presidency, Carla Johnson was ready for a drastic change. The 41-year-old lab technician from Cresco, Iowa, fell for Donald Trump very early in the 2016 primary season. She loved his “take-no-[sh**]” style, his conservative stances on gun control and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Andrew Cuomo Was Never That Great

Governor Cuomo is shouting again. It must be time for reelection. Queen Victoria complained of William Ewart Gladstone that he “speaks to Me as if I was a public meeting.” Andrew Cuomo has the opposite problem: He addresses public meetings as if trying to convince a recalcitrant octogenarian that the fire ... Read More