GREELEY, Colo. – Complaints are continuing to pile up after the University of Northern Colorado created a Bias Response Team to deal with behavior deemed to be offensive, including issues involving race, religion, national origin and sexual orientation.
Complaints range from in-class assignments to students’ strongly stated political opinions. They even included cooking competitions that caused problems for students with eating disorders.
First Amendment supporters say they have concerns about investigations, and they say the regulations could have a chilling effect on education.
According to more than 240 documents reviewed by the Greeley Tribune that were obtained through an online publication, Bias Response Team members sought to censor what a professor can cover in class, and the team has advised another professor not to discuss some sensitive issues at all to avoid offending students.
UNC officials said they just want to educate students about offensive rhetoric.
Adam Steinbaugh, attorney for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that tracks Bias Response Teams around the country, said UNC is encouraging students to report on what students believe are “hostile or offensive classroom” environments, posted on the university’s Bias Response Team website.
According to the documents, a professor brought up debate topics during a discussion of an Atlantic article titled “The Coddling of the American Mind” that included transgender issues.
The Bias Response Team intervened and told the professor not to do it again.
Dean of Students Katrina Rodriguez, who was in charge of the Bias Response Team, said there is room for improvement in the way the team handled some complaints.
“I would say that there are some aspects that we can revisit,” she said about discussions with professors. “There could have been perhaps another way to look at this.”
The reports are heavily redacted, with UNC officials removing the names of students, professors, administrators, organizations, programs and classes.
The newspaper said it could not locate the professors in question or clarify information in the reports with the people or organizations because of the lack of information.
UNC spokesman Nate Haas said the university blacked out the information in order to comply with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects students’ privacy.