Why Does Colby College Think That It’s Ethical To Keep A “Bias Incident Log”?

Might be time for a new motto, Colby. On the other hand...

Might be time for a new motto, Colby. On the other hand…

Wait…you say that more than a hundred campuses have this or the equivalent?


I am scheduled to teach a legal ethics class in the avoidance of bias in the practice of law next year, and I’m already worried. Past engagements of mine on this topic have been popular with attendees, but not always appreciated by my clients. The bar associations that make such training mandatory usually want to get someone to drone on about how lawyers should love Big Politically Correct Brother and search their souls for any germ of an attitude that would make Chris Matthews say they are racist, or the President of NARAL say they are sexist, or a Black Lives Matter activist call them privileged.  In other words, these are often devised as political indoctrination courses, using “bias” as code for “non-conforming thoughts according to progressive orthodoxy.”

I can’t and won’t teach that, because it’s as wrong as it is boring. Bias includes all ideas wedged in our minds that overcome reason and prevent just, even-handed, logical and fair decision-making. Bias makes us stupid, and for lawyers, the kind of bias I’m talking about undermines justice. Ironically, what most proponents of anti-bias courses want to do is instill biases that they and their partisan allies approve of. Once that is done, the Orwellian process is complete. “Bias” then means “not accepting our biases, which aren’t biases because we believe them, and we are good.”  The rationalization involved is 14. Self-validating Virtue.

The news and ethics issues are reaching one of those crisis points for me where everything seems to be connected to everything else, and I am torn whether to write one huge, conceptual post (the ones most readers skip) or a series of single episode posts. Facebook, a topic on its own, is revealing most of my friends whom I would identify as Democrats or progressives as in the grip of a crippling cognitive bias-based malady. Why did they think it was just wonderful for so many elected officials to deliberately ignore the core Constitutional principle of due process? Why did they reflexively attack the British vote to leave the European Union as “racist” or “xenophobic” rather than recognize it as a principled reassertion of their nation’s autonomy and democratic principles? How did freedom of speech, freedom of thought, true civil rights, and democracy itself become so alien to so many supposedly intelligent and self-proclaimed liberal adults?

Don’t worry, I’m coming back to Colby. It really does come down to bad and anti-American education poisoning the culture. In an excellent though disturbing essay on the Ethics And Public Policy website, Stanley Kurtz persuasively argues that U.S. education itself has turned against liberty, resulting in an increasing majority of citizens who do not believe or accept the virtues of core American ideals.

The incident that brought my attention to the Colby Bias Incident Log, which, at Colby and elsewhere, sends a Bias Response Team into investigation mode, was one in which a student was reported for allegedly using the idiom “on the other hand.”

No, this is not a hoax. It is not a joke. And what the fact that I am writing this suggests is far from funny. It is tragic.

You see, the phrase “on the other hand” is “ablist.” It is insensitive to those who have only one hand, or arm, or no arms at all. It may suggest hostility to disabled Americans generally. The student who said this is under suspicion, therefore, of being so deluded by privilege that he or she is a threat to the Brave New Diverse World, where the new privilege is being a member of an anointed minority, such as the tiny group of people who can’t decide what gender they are. Colby and a large proportion of the educational establishment, including public schools, seeks to solve the problems of humanity by enforced verbal, rhetorical, creative, philosophical and political conformity with their biases, which have been ossified into settled truth by decades of apathy, laziness, and unwarranted faith in common sense by those of us who knew what toxic crap this was, and foolishly assumed that it would die of absurdity.

Writes Reason: “A campus where students live in constant fear of becoming the subjects of formal complaints—where everyone is encouraged to collect information on each other and turn it over to the authorities—is not a healthy community.”

That’s putting it mildly, don’t you think? It’s not just an unhealthy community, it’s a totalitarian, anti-democratic community, and worse, one that creates bad, destructive, citizens who do not support the underlying values that have made the United States free, successful and prosperous. Moreover, a school that is not capable of rejecting as per se idiotic such a complaint is presumptively incapable of teaching anything worth knowing.

Ethics Alarms has already identified how such ignorant and censorious complaints should be handled, in the Niggardly Principles. The Colby bias complaint is exactly as silly as the infamous complaint against a D.C. government employee for using the inoffensive adjective “niggardly,” and maybe even sillier. Let me see: what other idioms of long-standing could be attacked as “ablist”?

Saving face…doesn’t have a leg to stand on…finger in the wind…thumb on the scale…win by a nose…hair-raising (as a follicle-challenged male, I am offended)…fat chance—toe in the water…face-palm…lip-service…eye-witness…


A student who reports another for saying “on the other hand” should receive help from a competent and ethical school, the help consisting of a tough, remedial course in how to overcome a bias against free speech, liberty, and the United States of America.

Unfortunately, Colby is not such a school.

How many are?

14 thoughts on “Why Does Colby College Think That It’s Ethical To Keep A “Bias Incident Log”?

  1. Ah…you will be teaching a class next year. No? The campus Kriminalpolizei will certainly kept a watchtful eye – Herr Marshall…it is Marshall? No?

  2. Wow! I guess I am really in trouble now. I have occasionally used the phrase ‘On the gripping hand’**, which evidently would be offensive to anyone with two or fewer hands.

    Time to hide under a rock.

    ** See Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle’s excellent novels “The Mote in God’s Eye” and “The Gripping Hand” about a race of aliens who happen to have three arms (right hand, left hand, gripping hand).

  3. You see, in another 15 years, they will be the ones making the laws. They, who the educational system has taught not only no understanding of our heritage, but an active loathing of us, may be the ones to vote for Constitutional amendments to limit our liberties.

    Couldn’t some forward-thinking institute buy tv air time to run spots that civically educate citizens? I mean…couldn’t we have a “Schoolhouse Rock” or something for adults?

    • We could, A.M., but at this late date, no-one would watch it. I pretty much believe our future is already determined, and it AIN’T pretty.

      • They’re creating their own jobs now. Every corporation has a diversity officer now, but there will be a raft load of these people in every office, literally watching and snitching. With quotas.

          • This Harvard Business Review article is almost ten years old:


            One thing a diversity office can do is is provide “protection” against boycotts and targeted lawsuits. Another thing is provide a place for affirmative action hires to work without placing them in the productive chain . The demands in all of these recent college protests have included more hires in diversity administration. Those jobs will be eventually be filled by the organizers of the protests.

            • Absolutely correct. It’s a shakedown. See, eg., Jesse Jackson’s entire operation. He singles out a corporation, tells them they have a diversity problem and then tells them he will fix it for a few hundred thousand dollars. The CEO can then tell his board he’s done all the right things and the PR department can issue press releases and everyone’s fine, except the shareholders just got ripped off.

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