Did you know Colby College has a bias response policy? How nice for them.

FIRE has their own response.

Speech Code of the Month: Colby College

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for July 2016: Colby College in Maine.

Colby’s Bias Incident Prevention and Response protocol encourages students to report on one another to the administration for a wide range of speech and expression. Not only that, but the college recently placed its previously-public “bias incident log” under password protection. When a college or university takes measures to hide information from the public, it usually means the school is doing something privately that it knows would not stand up to the glare of public scrutiny.

Bias incident reporting systems have been around for years, but they have recently been experiencing something of a surge on college campuses. Broadly speaking, these policies urge students to report incidents of perceived biased behavior and speech to the administration for some type of official response. Some schools define bias quite broadly (like Grinnell College, our March 2016 Speech Code of the Month), and others more narrowly. Some explicitly provide for the punishment of bias incidents, while others claim to just be collecting information so they can better respond to incidents that affect the campus climate.

At Colby, a bias incident is defined as follows:

A bias incident is an action that violates College policy and is motivated, in whole or in part, by the perpetrator’s bias or attitude against an individual or group based on perceived or actual personal characteristics, such as race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, age, sexual orientation or gender identity.

If Colby’s other policies did not infringe on protected speech, this definition wouldn’t necessarily be problematic, but they do: Among other things, the college defines harassment as any unwelcome, hostile remarks, whether “spoken or written.” So with this exceedingly broad definition of harassment in place, a reportable bias incident could be almost anything.

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Speech Code of the Month: Colby College (FIRE)