And here some of us thought those safe spaces and trigger warnings on American campi were unintentionally hilarious. But they just ushered in the beginning. Now make way for something called Bias Response Teams.
Bias Response Teams have been in the news the last couple of years. This past week, however, the Wall Street Journal reported on a lawsuit against the one at the University of Michigan. Dispatches say that there may be more than 200 universities in the United States that have such Bias Response gangs patrolling the hallways and dorms. Their target: bias, of course.
What bias? There are all kinds. Maybe a student will express an opinion. Or just be. As the Journal put it, "The existence of an offended party can be sufficient to prove 'bias.' The team warns potential offenders that bias 'may be intentional or unintentional.'" And students at the University of Michigan--and presumably elsewhere--are encouraged to report bias in their instructors or peers, anonymously if necessary.
Where shall we begin?
First, what the hell is wrong with being biased? Some of us make our living being biased. Or trying to be.
We sometimes get a phone call from an upset reader, complaining that an editorial or column or cartoon was "biased." We thank the reader for the call--we learn most from our critics--but we are tempted to thank the reader for the compliment. The problem with American opinion pages these days is there is so much unbiased opinion out there. Think the old David Broder columns. Or editorials in the New York Times, if anybody still reads them. In too many newspapers today, the best opinion can be found in their news columns, more's the pity.
Here's to bias! What, we're supposed to have an unbiased opinion on the Big Matters of the day? Can we be a little bit against abortion? A tad upset at certain presidential tweets? Can we root for the Razorbacks in moderation only? Maybe Harry Truman should've given them only heck. What a pity a more refined understanding of bias has been replaced in our simplistic time by the idea of bias as nothing more than blind prejudice. When will they ever learn? Certainly not in modern university settings.
These Bias Response Teams--which can include top college administrators and even campus police--also mete out justice, or what they call justice. If a poor soul is found in violation of one of its decrees, the student could face discipline ranging from training sessions to expulsion.
We'll take the expulsion, thank you. Some of us have worked for big media companies in the distant past, and we know all too well what re-education workshops and Tiger Team Lock Up Sessions and team-building exercises and diversity training are really like. Please, anything but that.
The University of Michigan tells its students, "The most important indication of bias is your own feelings." Really? Then we charge the University of Michigan with bias. We'll think of a reason later. Right now we just have this feeling . . . .
The days are quickly dwindling when colleges and universities challenged their charges. When professors were safe to make students uncomfortable in the name of challenging their opinions, that is, in the name of education. When a real classroom debate was more than agreeing with the approved thinking of the day, or hour, and echoing only empty platitudes. When there was real diversity in common rooms. Including diversity of thought.
Now bias is verboten.
Thou Shalt Not Offend has been the guiding principle of writing-by-committee for years, thus the state of the editorial page in this country. Now that notion has made its way to college.
Take our word for it, college won't be improved by it. Nor will college students.
Editorial on 05/20/2018
Print Headline: Oh, that bias response!