By Tom Ford
Just in time for Thanksgiving – while everyone was gearing up to thank God for the great freedom this country enjoys and getting ready for Saturday’s Iron Bowl – Auburn University went Red. Largely unnoticed, Auburn’s new Bias Education and Response Team (BERT) was launched. It’s supposed to police “bias” and promote civility but, instead, it’s casting a Red-Russia-like shadow across the loveliest village on the plains.
BERTs are infamous across the country for slapping free speech and vibrant debate in the face. They reprimand, intimidate, and silence students and faculty for whatever “bias incidents” they deem worthy of response — matters of “bias” that don’t even violate university policy.
University of California – a college mafia game poster was removed because an Italian American woman found it “extremely offensive.”
Emory – “Trump 2016” written in chalk has placed a student under investigation (not for breaking rules but, for offending someone).
Bowdoin – students were found to have bias against Hispanics, forced to move out of their room, placed on social probation, and required to complete future education programming for hosting a “fiesta.”
Minneapolis Community College – female African-American professor was reprimanded for “offending” three white males during a “structural racism” discussion.
John Carroll University – over 20% of the “bias incidents” reported were pranks.
University of Northern Colorado – a professor had to modify teaching techniques after a student complained about hearing one “offensive” side of a hypothetical debate.
Auburn – coming soon.
The list goes on.
The BERT claims to educate the campus on the need for civility and respect, to mediate conversations between “victims” and “perpetrators,” and to provide a place for anyone on campus to report a “bias incident.”
However, allowing a closed-door Team to target an individual is not an effective way to educate the entire campus on any topic and singling a person out for a “bias” deemed offensive by the BERT is no way to teach the campus a lesson in civility or promote diversity of thought. Neither is such a Team necessary for constructive conversations; that’s what professors and student bodies are for.
Thus, the real purpose of BERT is to be the campus thought-police and this raises red flags. The idea that any “offended” person or third party (anonymity is allowed), can file a complaint on any individual, for any offense or bias, at any given time, to unaccountable administrators, with no written standard, and whose idea of “bias” is subject to change at any given moment, reminds one only of Red Russia.
It’s anathema to all that American education claims to stand for.
Who decides what “bias” is? Is it possible to be an unbiased arbiter of bias on campus? No – and, to pretend so is delusional. Auburn’s Provost, Dr. Timothy Boosinger gave us a museum-quality example of such hypocrisy in his biased BERT announcement email when he expressed broad “concern” over the election of Donald Trump and mentioned the “Thanksgiving” holiday — which is known to be founded by sexist, Native American haters (sarcasm alert). Further, Auburn’s BERT webpage is biased against Christians (and others) because of its references to gender expression and sexual orientation. On the flipside, others may be offended because the BERT submission form provides only a small sampling of gender options.
As in the case of the BERT, where there is no objective standard by which to determine whether an incident should be investigated or not, bias is only subject to the personal bias of the person reviewing the bias. Such relativity is the reason that Christians at Auburn, who do live by a written standard, will be specifically targeted. While BERT may sell its legitimacy by policing those things we all hate (i.e. meanness, racial slurs, etc.), it’s just a sugarcoated betrayal of the fact that without an objective standard, chaos for everyone abounds.
When free speech is discouraged or suppressed, First Amendment rights are violated and when a student or faculty member feels afraid to express or communicate his or her opinion, a fundamental principle of vibrant education is despoiled.
Tell your legislators not to give Auburn University one penny while they harbor the BERT on your dime, and this Thanksgiving, thank God for the pilgrims who fled an oppressive England to found America as a bastion of liberty for the world.
The Bias Response Team at the University of Northern Colorado was shut down after receiving due backlash. Give Auburn University their due backlash and let’s keep Auburn Orange!
Oh, and, let’s beat Bama on Saturday.
H.T. (Tom) Ford, III, Ph.D. Auburn University Class of ’86, ’87, ’98, College of Education, Department of Kinesiology. Ford served on the faculty at Auburn University from 1990-1996 and Auburn University at Montgomery from 2003-2007. He currently lives in Montgomery, Alabama.