The RG has a long article on the Bias Response Team here, explaining the history of its formation under Dave Frohnmayer along with some details of the current controversy over campus BRT’s and academic freedom. Frohnmayer was especially sensitive on racial issues, having recently lost a case over discriminatory hiring of JH administrators. The RG story on the BRT:
For 15 years, the University of Oregon has fielded a “bias response team,” whose members approach students, faculty or staff who had been reported for making off-color or offensive remarks.
Some in the UO community see the Bias Education and Response Team as an essential aid to understanding on matters of race, sex, oppression or other hot-button issues that arise.
Others see the team as a squad of “thought police” that freezes out the potential for an exchange of ideas.
Some UO professors, in fact, worry that the team has made the university a national laughingstock.
In recent weeks, The Washington Post, The New Republic and The National Review [Sorry, report me for bias but you’ll have to google that one yourself] have variously described the UO program as “humorless, illiberal and dangerous” and “an Orwellian bureau that investigates students and faculty members for saying the wrong thing.”
A recent discussion of the team on a UO School of Journalism and Communication internet forum grew heated as free-speech advocates squared off with faculty who defended the need for people to be culturally sensitive in their discourse.
Although Dietz had trouble finding faculty willing to speak on the record about their interactions with the BRT, the entire story is well worth reading (as is The New Republic piece). This quote is from last month’s J-School town-hall:
The prospect of getting a call from the Bias Response Team about something said in a classroom is no doubt chilling, [Former Journalism School Dean Tim Gleason] said.
“That invitation (from the Bias Response Team) to have a conversation is going to be viewed, if not punitively, at least as a threat of some kind,” he said. Faculty may pull their intellectual punches. They’ll ask: “If I use this in class, will somebody report me? That’s not a healthy environment,” Gleason said.
And if there’s anyone who knows about the chilling effect that administrators can have on faculty and free speech it would be Tim Gleason. For for more about the VPSA’s paranoia over student speech try here.
Interestingly, it seems that the mere news that Diane Dietz is going to write a story on something is now enough to stir the UO administration to immediate action: they’ve renamed the BRT the BERT: