The University of Northern Colorado investigated a professor for encouraging debate in the classroom after a student complained.
The university has a Bias Response Team, which dispatches a team of school employees to investigate topics of classroom discussion or other incidents (like bathroom graffiti) that may have been triggering or made someone feel excluded.
One such investigation was prompted by a classroom discussion of an article published in The Atlantic entitled, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” which is about college students’ diminishing capacity to entertain more than one side of a debate due to the rise of “microaggressions” and “trigger warnings” on campuses.
The professor then selected several controversial topics of discussion, including transgender issues and abortion, among others, and instructed his students to debate both sides of each topic. The assignment was apparently too much for one student to handle, as “they” filed an incident report to the Bias Response Team, which then launched an investigation into the professor.
Heat Street, which obtained redacted copies of the Bias Response Team’s notes via a Freedom of Information Act request, reported that team’s notes stated:
‘Specifically there were two topics of debate that triggered them and personally felt like an attack on their identity (GodHatesFags.com: is this harmful? Is this acceptable? Is this Christianity? And Gay Marriage: should it be legal? Is homosexuality immoral as Christians suggest?)’
The student, whose name is redacted and who is referred to as ‘they’ in the report, complained that ‘other students are required to watch the in-class debate and hear both arguments presented.’
‘I do not believe that students should be required to listen to their own rights and personhood debated,’ the student wrote. ‘[This professor] should remove these topics from the list of debate topics. Debating the personhood of an entire minority demographic should not be a classroom exercise, as the classroom should not be an actively hostile space for people with underprivileged identities.’
The professor was told by the Bias Response Team to stop expressing his own opinion on issues that the article dealt with — particularly transgender issues.
UNC’s Bias Response Team has been pretty busy this year. Last year, the team hung nearly 700 posters around the campus warning students from using offensive terms, like “crazy,” “illegal immigrant,” and “hey guys.”