Phi Beta Cons

Reporting ‘Hurtful Speech’ Nothing New on Campus

Don’t be shocked at the news that University of Missouri police have asked students to report “hurtful speech” – similar requests have been made in the past at that campus and elsewhere. Granted, usually it’s campus bureaucrats – not jackboots – collecting such information, but certainly college campuses’ war on free speech predates the recent ruckus at Mizzou. 

Indeed, months before thought police officers asked University of Missouri students to report hurtful speech, faculty there were advised to correct peers’ so-called noninclusive language and were given a four-page “inclusive terminology” document. 

In May of this year, the College Fix also reported on a program at CU Boulder in which students were encouraged to report “hurtful statements” to campus authorities. The “Bias Incident Reporting” effort there aims to “address the impact of demeaning and hurtful statements as well as acts of intolerance directed towards protected classes,” CU Boulder’s website states.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Google “bias reporting + university” and a long list of campuses that ask students to report various iterations of hurtful language pop up. Some of these reporting systems actually do seek out legitimate concerns – such as hazing or violence – but most also include that nebulous request to report to the dean of students or Title IX officers any speech that is construed as intimidation or harassment.

These systems are coupled with campus campaigns that advise students what words they should or should not say. Today’s college students, brought up during the self-esteem movement by helicopter parents, actually believe their hurt feelings are worthy of investigation and disciplinary prosecution. And when petulant, narcissistic college students without an iota of perspective do not have their feelings validated or get their way, tantrums ensue.


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