The New Republic recently published this excellent article by Jeffrey Aaron Snyder and Amna Khalid on the growing phenomenon of bias response teams (BRTs) on campuses across the country. These panels encourage anonymous reporting of “bias incidents,” including offenses like “microaggressions,” and investigate the complaints they receive. The potentially chilling effect that such bodies can have on campus discourse cannot be overstated. As the authors write,
BRTs are fatally flawed. Adjudicating “he said, she said” incidents is a logistical nightmare, if not downright impossible for thinly stretched administrators. There will no doubt be examples of injustice where the “accused” are investigated—even penalized—over paltry evidence, or where the discipline meted out is far too harsh for the alleged “crime.” What’s more, BRTs will result in a troubling silence: Students, staff, and faculty will be afraid to speak their minds, and individuals or groups will be able to leverage bias reporting policies to shut down unpopular or minority viewpoints. BRTs will substitute diktats for debate when what we need most is constant, frank conversation. By almost any measure, colleges and universities are more diverse today than they have ever been, and that’s the paradox: BRTs will turn the genuine, transformative educational power of diverse voices into a farce.