MacIver News Service | January 8, 2018
By Bill Osmulski
MADISON, Wis. – Here’s how out of control the political correctness police have gotten at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
A student complained that a white homeless man who yelled “racist” at passersby at the student union was himself engaging in racism because he was hiding behind his “white privilege.”
That’s just one of the many acts of pettiness and tattle-tailing found in the liberal university’s “hate and bias” incident reports.
The UW-Madison’s Division of Student Life includes these highly questionable hate claims in its “Bias Reporting” database. That’s a shame, really. Such outlandish complaints diminish the legitimate cases of racism, discrimination and harassment that truly have occurred on campus.
Flaws within UW-Madison’s bias reporting system are creating an exaggerated picture of hate and bias, a MacIver Institute investigation has found.
Broad Bias Definition
Three years ago the university introduced the “Bias Reporting Process.” Students who are “hurting after experiencing a bias or hate incident on campus” are encouraged to file an incident report with the Division of Student Life. The reports can be filed online or in person at about a dozen locations on campus.
Altogether, since the introduction of the reporting system in the fall of 2015, the university has received reports on 256 separate incidents. The MacIver Institute obtained 88 bias incident reports through two open records requests that stretch from January through August 2017.
What exactly counts as “bias?” The university maintains a very broad definition that includes “single or multiple acts toward an individual, group, or their property that are so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that they create an unreasonably intimidating, hostile, or offensive work, learning, or program environment, and that one could reasonably conclude are based upon actual or perceived age, race, color, creed, religion, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, marital status, spirituality, cultural, socio-economic status, or any combination of these or other related factors.”
The reporting form provides plenty of space for students to articulate their specific grievance and provide evidence. The reports are then collected by the Bias Response and Advocacy Coordinator, which is a full-time position with an annual salary of $42,000. Ultimately, they are compiled into summary reports that track the trends from semester to semester.
There is also a Bias Response Team made up of students, faculty and staff.
“[The Team] has been charged with addressing any issue related to bias or hate,” according to the summary reports. That seems to mostly involve organizational training sessions. The team has conducted 18 workshops for student organizations, departments, and programs reaching about 550 people in the spring/summer of 2016. Members have led various informational campaigns. Those efforts have yielded mixed results. The university’s summary reports indicate the number of incidents is increasing, but speculates the reason is increased awareness of the reporting system.
Some of the reports seem to indicate genuine problems on campus. Unfortunately, they can get lost in a cacophony of classroom disagreements, roommate squabbles, personal vendettas, arguments over workout room equipment, and Facebook fights. The university takes all reports seriously, and so there is no differentiating between reports that seem to indicate serious problems of hate and bias on campus, and reports that seem to be motivated by something else.
High School Grudges
For example, in March a male student posted a picture of himself on Facebook cradling a blue fanny pack pretending to be pregnant. His friends joked in the comments, “What’s the gender?” “It’s blue so I’m assuming it should be a girl that’s how it works these days right,” and “Non-binary I’m hoping.”
The person who filed the bias report stated, “I have known these boys for years. I went to high school with them. They are generally very mean people. They have specifically attacked my friends, although not in this instance. They need to stop their hateful, ignorant and offensive comments.”
The male student told MacIver News he was aware of the report, but the university never contacted him about it. The Office of Compliance told MacIver News there is almost never any follow up with the alleged perpetrators. The focus is on the victims and providing them support.
Bias Reports Are Not Police Reports
Many who file the reports aren’t seeking help. They just seem to think something good will come from reporting. For example, a woman who says she was heckled for being a lesbian wrote, “I’m filing this report because I believe the perpetrators should be identified and held accountable for harassment and hate speech on University property.”
There’s good reason to think that would happen. The website says, “The Bias Response and Advocacy Coordinator refers investigation and adjudication to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards and University Housing; criminal investigations are managed by UWPD and/or Madison Police Department. The Bias Response and Advocacy Coordinator also refers incidents involving employees to the Office of Compliance and/or the Office of Human Resources.”
MacIver’s research found that simply doesn’t happen. First of all, the university admits, “Although the expression of an idea or point of view may be offensive or inflammatory to some, it is not necessarily a violation of law or university policy.”
And even if a report were referred to the Office of Student Conduct, the results would potentially be swift and controversial. The Division of Student Life’s assistant deans are responsible for conducting any required investigations in addition to their other duties.
“The campus process does not use the same procedures, burdens of proof, or rules of evidence as local, state, or federal legal systems,” its website explains. “University staff make decisions based on a preponderance of the evidence—information that persuades a reasonable person that is is more likely true than not true that misconduct occurred. In certain cases, clear and convincing evidence—information that would persuade a reasonable person to have a firm belief that the misconduct occurred—is necessary to remove a student from campus or restrict them from a course or program.”
Many students seem confused by the difference between criminal law and university policy. Subsequently, they’ll report an incident to the university as bias, when they should be reporting it to the police as a crime. Last year, someone shot a student at a bus stop with an airsoft gun. She stated in the bias incident report that she felt she was targeted because she’s “visibly gender non-conforming.” She included a picture of a large bruise on her leg with the report but did not contact law enforcement about it.
Real Racism On Campus
There are some reports that seem to indicate a genuine problem with racism on campus, specifically targeting Asian students. For example, according to the reports, an employee at the rec center was overheard saying “Chinese are idiots” in the presence of Chinese students. A man on State Street yelled at an Asian American, “If you don’t speak English, go back to your f—ing country.” A man on Johnson Street physically assaulted an Asian woman, yelling “You do not belong here. Go back to your f—ing country and get out of the States!”
But serious reports like these seem to get lost within reports like: “I’m reporting a Facebook page called ‘UW – Meme County.’ Specifically, the page uses an image of Bucky Badger adapted to look like Pepe Frog.”
Then there’s the Jill Stein poster that was torn down – supposedly due to anti-semitism on campus. And then there was a series of crudely arranged lines scratched in a stall in the men’s room at the rec center, which was determined to be a swastika. (Police were called for that last one, by the way.)
Reporting Your Professor
It’s also not unusual for students to report their professors for objectionable classroom instruction. At least one student was offended when her literature teacher read a passage from a Joseph Conrad novel; n-word and all.
Another student was dismayed at her gender studies professor, who was not satisfactorily respectful when using the term “transsexual” and taught “that while gender is a cultural construct, sex is a universal, biological trait which is not culturally influenced. This is simply untrue. I fear that this will lead to confusion and misunderstanding about trans people and our experiences, which can further the violence that we experience.”
In another report, a student described a biology lecture where the professor provided a handout of different types of organisms. A palm tree represents land plants, a mushroom represents fungi and, in a bizarre attempt to be inclusive, she used the picture of a black woman to represent animals.
The irony of some reports borders on the absurd.
In one report, a white homeless man was yelling “racist” at everyone who walked past him at the union. The student who filed the report said something needed to be done about the man and that he was hiding behind his “white privilege.”
Then there’s the incident report about the pizza slice-of-the-day at the student union called the “Buffalo Soldier.” (Historical note: “Buffalo Soldier” was a racist term the Plains Indians called black Soldiers, claiming they looked like buffalo). Ironically, the person offended by the name was a native American. She mistakenly thought the term was simply “what they called soldiers that were meant to kill Indians and buffalo.”
Report Anything, Just Claim It’s Bias
The most recent reports the MacIver Institute collected are from the summer of 2017, and they generally seem to depart from the original purpose of the bias reporting system. There are reports about someone hogging weights at the gym, a female student who didn’t feel comfortable with her roommate sub-leasing to a male, someone yelling the f-word at someone on the street, the man who illegally docked his boat at the pier, the landlord who evicted a student for having a dog, and the students who moved out of their apartment without telling one of the roommates. Typically, the person filing the report believes the incident is race-, ethnicity-, or gender-based discrimination.
Fishy labeling like that not only detracts from genuine cases of hate and bias, it also creates statistics that exaggerate the problem on campus. During the summer 2017 semester, 72 percent (8 out of 11) of reported incidents were supposedly race related. However, five out of the six examples above were among those labeled as race-based incidents, and another report that summer about a student commenting on a new university staff member hired to address sexual orientation issues on campus was also labeled as race-related.
Creating Bad Statistics
All that bad data is now being shared to a national database organized by ProPublica for a project called “Documenting Hate.” Needless to say, by incorporating data from the university’s bias reporting system, its results will be suspect.
If you think the university’s starting to look a little like George Orwell’s classic novel “Animal Farm,” you’re not alone. One student filed a bias report against the bias reporting system. The anonymous complainant wrote, “I’ve noticed that the University of Wisconsin–Madison asks students to rat on other students for opinions that ‘offend’ them for one reason or another. This goes against the very foundations upon which the United States is grounded. Such Orwellian censorship practices are very reminiscent of the tyrannical East-German Stasi and make free speech & free thought completely impossible.”
Indeed, there is nothing about the bias reporting system that casts the university in a good light. The reports generally reveal a petty, immature, and, oftentimes, poorly educated student body. Even when credible incidents of hate and bias are discovered, the university’s response is clearly not working. The statistics that come from the reports are produced from unfiltered data that is, in itself, biased. Ultimately, the bias reporting system does little more than justify the reporting system’s own continued existence while feeding popular liberal narratives.