- The Daily Caller News Foundation conducted an analysis of reports filed through five university bias reporting systems to determine what bias incidents students were reporting.
- Students reported on each other for using the wrong pronouns, misgendering or making comments that were perceived as biased, the documents revealed.
- “There was a sign on the door to [redacted] and [redacted] dorm room that said ‘All Solicitors Must Be Able To Define the Word ‘Woman,'” a report made at Miami University (MU), located in Ohio, read.
Students across the country are relying on secret tip lines to report on their peers for speech that could be considered biased language, according to an analysis conducted by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Bias reporting systems (BRS) and bias reporting teams (BRT) are quickly becoming a popular tool used on college campuses to monitor and, sometimes, punish speech that is found to be offensive or in violation of university policies. Many of the complaints filed at several universities during the fall 2022 semester accused students of misgendering, using the wrong pronouns and making insensitive comments, according to documents obtained by the DCNF through public record requests. (RELATED: Over Half Of Colleges Encourage Students To Snitch On Each Other: REPORT)
The University of Connecticut (UConn) bias incident report accumulated 79 complaints filed between July and December 2022, according to documents obtained by the DCNF. One complaint flagged a residential hall email that “identif[ied] bathroom use based on gender” while another reported a comedian performing at an on-campus comedy show for “verbal remarks directed at race/ethnicity, religion, gender identity/expression and sexual orientation.”
Staff members filed several complaints flagging comments about gender identity written on white boards outside of students’ dorms.
“Bias reporting systems are a common and valuable tool at many institutions, including UConn. They help ensure that members of the campus community receive support when they are negatively impacted by intentional or unintentional actions or comments based how they identify as an individual. (Examples include race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, sex, ethnicity, age, or disability),” Stephanie Reitz, UConn spokesperson, told the DCNF.
An Illinois State University (ISU) student was reported for saying that there are only two genders and for reportedly not wanting to live with a roommate who “makes stuff up in their head,” according to ISU documents obtained by the DCNF. The documents revealed multiple reports against roommates who would not use preferred pronouns or “misgendered” students.
“There was a sign on the door to [redacted] and [redacted] dorm room that said ‘All Solicitors Must Be Able To Define the Word ‘Woman,'” a report made at Miami University (MU), located in Ohio, read.
Bowling Green State University, located in Ohio, recorded 15 submissions to its reporting system, the majority of which reported “racist,” “sexist” or “homophobic” rhetoric.
A UConn staff member filed a complaint against a student who was seen wearing “middle eastern clothing in the residence hall.” Residential Life staff determined that the student had Middle Eastern heritage and, therefore, did not commit a biased incident.
At ISU, a professor reported a student for comments he made in class, one of which was reportedly “I’m not going to vote for someone just because they’re Black.” The professor also raised a concern about the student’s vocal support for the Second Amendment despite clarifying the student never made a threat in the classroom.
“However, given the sheer number of troubling comments, the way he expresses anger or hostility when he feels frustrated, and that he seems to quickly think of gun violence as a viable solution, I think it’s worth taking seriously the possibility that this situation could escalate,” the anonymous professor wrote.
Another report said that an education student had been given an assignment titled “Why White People Suck” and requested that ISU launch an investigation into the matter.
“This student was shocked, discouraged and clearly bothered by it,” the anonymous reporter wrote. “And if you’re wondering why this student didn’t bring this up to the professor or denounce this assignment in class, it’s because this student was afraid of retaliation and being shunned by classmates. Great atmosphere you are cultivating there.”
It is unclear whether this assignment was given to students. The DCNF filed a second public records request with the university to obtain additional details on the matter, but no documents were uncovered.
A University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) faculty member used the tool to anonymously express concern about the “working climate” in the political science department, according to documents obtained by the DCNF. A BRT member recommended an unconscious bias training to the department and another suggested the department attend workshops on implicit bias and mitigation offered during the spring semester.
Other reports obtained by the DCNF reported community members for antisemitism and for apparent political bias.
A UIC student asked the “Bias Response Team to inform my professor and the Dean of Students of their obligation to follow disability rights laws and refrain from discriminating against or targeting students,” according to documents obtained by the DCNF. The student was later informed that they would need to request an accommodation to be exempt from wearing a face mask in class.
An MU pro-life student used the system to report a phone call they received after signing up for the Students for Life chapter during a club fair.
“Hey … we met today at MegaFair, I’m not sure if you remember me, I’m the one from England. Anyways I was calling to let you know that I want you to have my baby and I wanna abort them!” the anonymous caller reportedly said.
Bias reporting systems are accused of unconstitutionally infringing on student speech rights. Reitz, however, said the school’s system complies with the First Amendment.
“UConn’s bias reporting system does not curtail First Amendment freedoms,” she told the DCNF. “UConn is a university that embraces freedom of expression, thought, and speech. The process respects free speech while also recognizing the need to provide services to those who experience harmful effects due to others’ comments and actions.”
In October, free speech advocacy group Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) sent demand letters to eight universities that operated a bias reporting system alleging that the systems unlawfully chilled free speech on campus, according to its press release.
Since then, the University of Maine revised its system to comply with SLF demands and clarify that it would not punish or investigate protected speech while Southern Utah University completely dissolved its reporting system.
“Bias reporting systems are generally unconstitutional because they encourage students to tattle on each other any time they don’t want to hear an opposing view,” CeCe O’Leary, SLF’s director of its 1A Project, told the DCNF. “As we pointed out in a recent letter to Bowling Green State University, this does a major disservice to college students who are supposed to be learning new ideas and engaging in robust debate.”
UIC, ISU, MU and BGSU did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
This article has been updated with comment from the University of Connecticut.
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