The University of Michigan-Flint has launched a website where “students who experience any form of bias or micro-aggressions whatsoever” can tattle on members of their community. In a campus-wide email sent Tuesday afternoon (and shared with the Washington Examiner), UM-Flint staff announced the new website and encouraged students, faculty and staff to begin reporting. They can even do so anonymously. “At UM-Flint, we have a strong commitment to diversity and equity, and we strive to ensure that every student is able to participate and thrive in a culture of inclusion,” the email said. “Reporting bias against students is important because it allows us to keep track of how individual students and groups are experiencing our campus community, and better positions us to provide closely informed responses that will ensure an optimal living and learning environment for everyone.”
The entire community was called upon to report incidents of bias they witness, even if they weren’t the recipient of the alleged bias. Adding in that reports can be done anonymously, UM-Flint could predictably become a hotbed of politically and personally motivated revenge reports. UM-Flint surely had the best intentions when creating this website, but we’ve seen recently that if students are given an inch to voice their complaints, they will complain about anything and everything.
The Bias Incident Report website describes bias as “intentional and unintentional acts of oppression and marginalization that can interfere with student success and our broader efforts to build a climate that truly supports each and every individual student.” It’s those unintentional acts that will ensnare many innocent, well-meaning students. We’ve seen the list of what counts as an unintentional microaggression grow in recent months. In California, saying “America is the land of opportunity” counts as a microaggression because the most sensitive of sensitive students see America as one of the most racist countries on the planet, even today. At other campuses, similar campus “crybullies” — a term coined by The Wall Street Journal — have complained that common words are oppressive to them. At Princeton, students wanted the leaders of individual colleges to be called something other than “master” because it reminded them too much of slavery, even though the practice was abolished in this country long, long before they were born. One has to wonder if these students could ever obtain a post-graduate degree if the word traumatizes them so much.
At Lebanon Valley College, crybullies demanded changing the name of the “Lynch Memorial Hall” because the word “lynch” refers to putting someone to death by hanging by a mob without legal sanction. The word in the building’s name was actually someone’s last name, and is shared by more than 130,000 people in the United States. Again, can these precious snowflakes never handle the word, even when it is the last name of our African-American attorney general? This is what UM-Flint can expect in the future. Conveniently, political affiliation isn’t included in UM-Flint’s lengthy list of groups that can experience bias. The list includes “race, color, language, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, veteran’s status and other social identities and identity markers.” The Examiner has asked UM-Flint faculty whether a report from a conservative student against a liberal professor would be treated the same as an African-American student’s report against a white student. The Examiner has yet to hear back. The bias-reporting website also defines a microaggression as “a statement, action or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle or unintentional discrimination against members of a historically marginalized identity-based group such as, but not limited to, racial, gendered, sexual identity and religious groups.” How that differs from the definition for bias is unclear. Students are also provided with a 12-word definition of a hate crime: “Hate crimes are criminal-level offenses that are perpetrated against a victim.” UM-Flint took great care to define bias and microaggression, but when it comes to an actual hate crime? Meh, no need to elaborate.
The actual bias-incident report form, oddly, doesn’t include “bias” or “microaggression” as a choice for the type of incident being reported. Instead, students must look at a list that contains incidents such as “threat,” “theft,” “assuming another person’s identity” and then select “other” to complain about their perceived slight. They could also select “harassment,” “intimidation,” “discrimination,” “bullying” or “disruption.” It’s odd that the email and website announcing the report specifically mentions “bias” and “microaggressions,” yet these are not options on the report itself. Students can also report incidents of bias that occurred online, off-campus or, again, “other.” The report does not appear to be limited to incident’s involving other members of the UM-Flint community, which could open the door for the system to become a forum of venting for constantly outraged students who see oppression in everything from words to food.
The Examiner has also asked UM-Flint officials for details on what prompted the website and for some examples of what campus administrators believe are incidents of bias or microaggressions. The Examiner also asked how the complaints would be resolved, what kind of consequences are at stake for those accused and whether they will have a chance to defend themselves. The Examiner is also wondering if the accusations will be made public or if they will be resolved privately. UM-Flint has so far not responded to these questions. This article will be updated if and when they do respond.