Data from national surveys tell us that the vast, vast majority of college students, faculty, and staff find their campuses open and welcoming places. Very few report incidents of bias, hate, or general incivility. This is a good thing.
Unfortunately, universities rarely use data when making decisions. Think about that. Just like everyone else, they collect tons and tons of data, generate an ungodly amount of paperwork and reports, and then make decisions rooted too often in emotion and political expediency.
Bias Response Teams (BRT’s) are an excellent example of an idea that was never fully vetted and that was never supported by data. Few professors even know what they are, that they exist, or that they exist on their campuses. Yes, UC has a BRT. No, I have not (yet) been contacted by them.
Here is how it works: Let’s say that an easily offended student doesn’t like the fact that I discuss sex differences, genetic influences on behavior, or the color of my shirt. The student can now file a complaint with a BRT. The BRT will document the alleged offense and contact the professor.
Why are BRT's a serious threat to academic freedom, you ask? Simple. Students now have a mechanism to make complaints over the silliest of things and the university now has a tool to police the content of what is taught.
Here is an excellent example: The University of Northern Colorado’s BRT kicked into action when it received a complaint from a student concerning what was being taught in a class. The class examined a series of controversial topics--topics that some students apparently thought should never be discussed. The BRT contacted the professor and “had a conversation.” The professor was told to avoid such topics in the future.
BRT’s are the outgrowth of two forces: The administrative desire to placate minority groups and the leftist desire to root out anything that conflicts with their dogma. These joint forces are responsible for much of what you see on campuses today as efforts to control speech and the dissemination of ideas continue to multiply.
I never thought I would see the day when faculty rolled over and capitulated on such issues and, subsequently, gave away their academic freedom.
Read about what happened here: heatst.com/culture-wars/an-inside-look-at-how-one-college-is-censoring-classroom-debate/?mod=sm_tw_post
John Paul Wright and Matt DeLisi
Professors of Crime and Criminology