Culture

The Corner

Campus Ideologues Double Down on Censorship — Beware the ‘Bias Response Team’

Colleges looking for new programs to appease campus radicals are turning to an old idea — the “bias-response team.” The Chronicle of Higher Education has the details:

[Bias-response] teams are becoming more common — the University of Iowa recently became the latest major university to say it would create one. And in an era when social-media platforms are abundant . . . the teams can give universities a way to stay ahead of the curve in handling hateful speech that violates university rules.

“Speech that violates university rules?” What does that mean? The Chronicle continues:

The teams serve two major functions: offering students a simple reporting tool when either they’re victims of bias or they notice it, and tracking reports so officials can spot problems that may be unfolding on a campus.

“We want to know the pulse of the campus,” said Jeff Knapp, who works in the counseling center and leads the BART at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “We want an all-encompassing view of how we can make sure our students and anyone that steps on the UNO campus feel welcome.”

Universities are playing a dangerous constitutional game. They’re trying to deter speech they don’t like while avoiding creating policies or procedures that are plainly unconstitutional. As a result, they often do is create a “process-is-punishment” mechanism that subjects offending students to intrusive and humiliating investigations all the while claiming to any watching free speech advocates (or federal judges) that they’re not actually prohibiting protected speech, they’re just “investigating complaints.”

Moreover, if you think the participants are overzealous college students, think again. The team members are often “student-affairs officers or professors.” And campus censorship is always accompanied by a healthy dose of coddling. This is just pitiful:

[A]t the University of Oregon, volunteers armed with cards and information attend events — protests, for instance — that are deemed potentially upsetting and tell offended students what they can do and where they can go for help.

I know from speaking to countless college students that bias-response teams have a profound chilling effect on free speech. In schools where teams are active, it’s the rare college student who has the intestinal fortitude to speak freely on matters of race, class, gender, or sexuality if their views are out-of-step with campus ideologues. Bias-response teams are ripe for legal challenge and legislative intervention. Do state lawmakers really want their universities to spend money on the speech police?

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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