Bias Tuesday

Ashley Thorne

Within minutes after Peter Wood posted “Snitch Studies at Cal Poly: We Snare Because We Care” on the NAS website this afternoon, we received word of several other bias-related stories in higher ed institutions around the country. The coincidental occurrence of all these cases is, we think, worth noting.

First, MIT will devote its final faculty meeting of the year to mandatory bias training. The “Overcoming Hidden Bias” session, as described in a campus email, “comprises a forum to address hidden gender and racial bias.” Specifically, it will explore “‘schemas’—unconscious expectations that govern our interactions.” The email’s author concludes, “We hope that these discussions will be a productive way to help faculty identify hidden bias, especially during recruitment and retention.”

Could this mean that MIT faculty hiring and promotion will involve judging candidates’ schemata—their worldviews?

Next, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s afternoon report (subscription required), the University of Nevada Las Vegas will revise its proposed bias response policy, which faculty members objected to for its potential infringements of First Amendment rights. The policy was pioneered by Christine Clark, vice president for diversity and inclusion. Now that faculty members, the ACLU, and several newspaper editorials have complained about the policy, UNLV president David Ashley appointed a committee to review it and decide whether to rewrite it. Here’s the catch: President Ashley appointed Christine Clark to lead the panel. Could there be a schema at work? 

According to Peter Schmidt writing for the Chronicle:

Among the objections being raised about the policy is that its definition of bias is so vague that it covers statements about race, religion, and other subjects that are protected under the First Amendment. Faculty leaders also have expressed concern that the policy appears to give the impression that people should go straight to the campus police with reports of bias incidents and hate crimes, leaving campus authorities little discretion to decide whether bias complaints are frivolous or actually merit investigation.

Having read the bias policy (which insists, “This policy is not a speech code”), we believe the faculty’s fears are justified.

Then we read a press release stating that the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents is reviewing the wording of its document “Student Nonacademic Disciplinary Procedures.” Over the last two years the UW System has been collecting feedback on the policy. One of the main appeals it received was to include “Expanded language about students’ constitutional rights, specifically addressing freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”

This is an issue that FIRE has fought for, and we are pleased to see that victory is in sight; the Regents are likely to approve the changes at the end of this week.

And that’s all for today in campus bias news. Be sure to also check out “Snitch Studies at Cal Poly: We Snare Because We Care”!

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