The Corner

Bias Reporting and Indoctrinate U

I’m adding a few more thoughts to my dialogue with Eugene Volokh on anonymous bias reporting systems, because I’m going to be on the road for a few days and it will be tougher to post. (See especially my two earlier posts, “Bias Reporting Debate,” and “Bias Reporting and the Wren Cross.”)

For folks who think that, even allowing for some poetic licence, invocations of East German-style thought crimes are unwarranted in this context, I suggest a viewing of Evan Coyne Maloney’s film, Indoctrinate U. I’ve already recommended the film, but now you might want to view it with the idea of an anonymous bias reporting system in mind. I’m especially thinking of one particular episode in the film–the fury that came down on a member of the college Republicans when he posted a flyer for a talk. Some students at the campus multi-cultural center resented seeing the flyer put up in their bailiwick.

There was nothing racist about this flyer (in my view, and almost certainly in yours (but that’s the problem, isn’t it?). Yet some students at the multi-cultural center called the police on this campus Republican, on the charge that his posting of the flyer was a racist act. As a result, this poor member of the college Republicans was put through a hellish ordeal–a pressure campaign from the university administration to admit and apologize for his allegedly insensitive and racist act. When he finally took the school to court, this student got relief–which depended, of course, on his ability to show that his accusers had been mistaken.

Watch the film and imagine that this case had played out, not in court, but at a strictly internal administrative hearing based on an anonymous bias report made by one of the students from the multi-cultural center. Under those circumstances, the student Republican would almost surely have been even more outgunned, intimidated, and without reasonable recourse than he already was. In effect, an anonymous bias reporting system invites a multiplication of just the sort of episodes we see in Indoctrinate U. At little or no risk to themselves, anonymous accusers will be able to kick off proceedings that will be costly to the reputation and future of the accused, and in which pressure will be brought to bear for confession of sin.

At any rate, that’s how it is likely to work in our current campus climate. And as I’ve noted in my earlier posts, everything points to William and Mary’s administration sharing many of the assumptions of the administrators featured in Indoctrinate U. (Then imagine the Duke administration and professors from the Duke 88 running internal hearings based on anonymous accusations of bias.) Have a look at the film when it comes to your area, or buy the DVD when it comes out, and see if you don’t agree that anonymous campus bias reporting systems are not the direction in which we want to go.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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