by Kendall Tietz
Over half of the U.S.’s private and public colleges encourage students to snitch on each other, according to a report released Monday by a free speech non-profit.
Of the 821 higher education institutions surveyed, 56% of them are reported to have some form of a “Bias Reporting System” (BRS), according to the report from Speech First (SF), a free speech member organization. The report surveyed 441 private schools, or 23% of all private four year colleges in the U.S. and 380 public schools, or 49% of the country’s four-year public universities.
BRSs are university teams or procedures that aim to solicit, receive, investigate and respond to reports of “bias incidents,” which are used to “silence dissenters,” “stifle open dialogue” and “encourage students to turn informant on speech they seem unacceptable,” according to SF. The BRSs typically invite students and faculty to report “biased” speech on the basis of protected characteristics such as race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age disability or someone’s “political affiliation.”
“BRSs frequently define ‘bias incidents’ in vague and overbroad terms, making them difficult for students to interpret and easy for administrators to employ at their discretion,” the report stated. SF said this “opens the door to arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement.”
🚨 NEW: Speech First has just released its FULL report on the growth of restrictive Bias Reporting Systems (BRS) in higher education. The bottom line? Nearly 50% of public universities have adopted such systems. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/h5HE5yJlWh
— Speech First (@Speech_First) April 26, 2022
“These are illegal practices,” that “are more prevalent than ever, doubling in the last five years since a 2017 study conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE,” Cherise Trump, SF’s executive director, said in a statement.
The College Fix did an extensive review of “bias response teams,” which detailed numerous examples of “bias” incidents filed against students and professors.
In one example, a student at Michigan State University filed a bias complaint against his roommate for watching a Ben Shapiro video, the College Fix reported. In response, a school administrator allowed a room change, because the student said “MSU has roomed me with someone who supports hate speach [sic].”
A professor at SUNY-Cortland was reported to the bias response team because he proclaimed he was not “one of those America-is-evil academics” and stated the U.S. has made progress regarding “race and gender relations” since the 1930s, the College Fix reported.
At George Mason University, when a professor found a Bible in her classroom, she reported it to the university’s bias team, which was deemed an incident of “discrimination” and “harassment” against “religion,” The College Fix reported.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said BRSs “objectively chill speech” because they act “by way of implicit threat of punishment and intimidation to quell speech,” according to a 2019 decision. The Fifth Circuit similarly decided in 2020 that the University of Texas’ Campus Climate Response Team “represents the clenched fist in the velvet glove of student speech regulation.”
Trump told the Daily Caller News Foundation that these “campus censor squads” are permeating American colleges and universities to “essentially speech police, using insidious methods to shut down ideas they disagree with.”
“Students who take advantage of bias reporting systems to shut down speech they don’t like will one day be CEOs, professors, k-12 teachers, lawyers and judges,” she added. “How can students become great leaders if they cannot learn to listen and debate key issues that shape our society?”
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Kendall Tietz is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.