Chilling Speech And Expression At Smith: The Scariest Thing About This Is Not The Story Itself, But That Alarm Over It Is Not Bi-Partisan

phone-call

Students at Smith College now have access to an anonymous 24 hour bias hotline and online portal for reporting what the complaining caller regards as bias, discrimination, and harassment. These offenses can be whatever a student thinks it is.

The service will be run by EthicsPoint, a  service used by prestigious institutions like Amherst College, Tufts University, and Brown University. The conduct being reported doesn’t have to be illegal,  Smith says,  only “unfair,” “uninvited,” or “unwelcome” as well as what someone regards as “bigotry, harassment, or intimidation.”  Expressing support for the Republican nominee for President, for example, risks being called “bigotry.” A forceful argument that it isn’t bigotry might be taken as intimidation.

According to the EthicsPoint reporting portal, misconduct can include “but is not limited to, slurs, graffiti, written messages, or images.” A Smith College spokeswoman  told Campus Reform that “Smith has adopted EthicsPoint—a service used by more than 800 higher education institutions around the world—as a supplement to, not a replacement for, existing in-house options.”

This is an “everybody does it” excuse for the inexcusable, indeed, for the totalitarian. Since the reporting portal does not require a login, anyone, regardless of whether they are students or affiliated with the college, can report a student for being “offensive.”  Articles about this Orwellian development express concern that it might lead to self-censorship and chill free speech. Gee, do you think so? Of course this “report your classmates for non-conforming ideas that offend you” system chills speech. It is intended to chill speech. After four years under such a system, a typical Smith student should be completely conditioned never to speak or, better yet, think non-progressive thoughts.

No school that adopts such a hotline is interested in diversity of thought or developing independent judgment or critical thinking skills. Such schools are devoted to ideological indoctrination, peer intimidation, and the persecution of iconoclasts and opponents of  partisan orthodoxy.

If Smith students do not act in concert to reject this unethical and undemocratic tool of groupthink by either protesting its existence out of existence or breaking the system by reporting absurd offenses, then they are lost already. Do liberals, progressives, feminists and Democrats even comprehend what is so wrong about this any more?

I wonder.

Let’s see if the Smith alumni have any integrity.

44 Comments

Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Rights, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump, U.S. Society

44 responses to “Chilling Speech And Expression At Smith: The Scariest Thing About This Is Not The Story Itself, But That Alarm Over It Is Not Bi-Partisan

  1. Eternal Optometrist

    If it weren’t so sad, it would be hilarious. All those 60’s radicals now that they’re in power, want to squelch all dissenting speech. They were only for free speech as long as it was speech that they agreed with.

    If I had a child there, I’d demand a tuition refund. And you wonder why they are so ill equipped to engage in intellectual discourse (remember Obama staring at his shoes while Romney ripped him up one side and down the other) and need the debate questions ahead of time.

  2. Steve-O-in-NJ

    “Do liberals, progressives, feminists and Democrats even comprehend what is so wrong about this any more?”

    Do you really even NEED to ask that, Jack? Private universities are pretty close to dictatorships anyway, they don’t have to extend constitutional rights. However, the state can take your freedom or your life, at most they can ask you to leave. If students are wise, they will just keep their heads down and their noses in their books until they are handed their degrees, then move on with the business of real life. Online degrees are also an attractive alternative because they give you the substance without all the bs – the faux outrage, the sorority girls who act like you’re invisible, the backbiting, the conversations about nothing until 3 AM, and, most importantly, the exposure to these kind of nonsensical allegations.

    You once lamented anti-intellectualism on the part of conservatives and said it was one of the flaws in the conservative movement. I have to ask, with respect, isn’t this kind of invitation to crush discourse the worst kind of anti-intellectualism? What’s more, does it come as a complete surprise that those who hold one set of views might be opposed to or angry with a system that has turned the places that are supposed to be the seats of great learning and new ideas into ice fields of conformity, where deviation from the one accepted way of doing things is severely punished?

  3. What will this do to the value of Smith degrees?

  4. Wayne

    This is truly an awful development. Any student that has a grudge against a professor who gives him a low grade can rat on him or her. Don’t these fools realize that these were exactly the same tactics that the Nazis and Stalinists used to stifle dissent. If I was an Alumni I would immediately pull out of supporting the university financially and find out which administrators were responsible for approving this awful contract.

  5. This doesn’t chill speech. It chills it’s precursor. Thought.

    This is outright encouraging thought police informants.

  6. Chris

    Expressing support for the Republican nominee for President, for example, risks being called “bigotry.” A forceful argument that it isn’t bigotry might be taken as intimidation.

    Nothing about the way this program is described indicates this. What is your evidence that this program will be used to chill speech or “ideas” when it specifically says it’s to target harassment and bigotry?

    • Are you deliberately ignoring what the post says?
      From the Reason link: There are more than two dozen kinds of violations, according to Smith’s website—including bias incidents and harassment. The university defines harassment as “unfair treatment, uninvited or unwelcome verbal or physical conduct,” because of “race, creed, color, religion, national/ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age,” or disability status.

      This is simply an enforcement mechanism for a speech code and a Soviet style reporting mechanism. How can you possibly argue that it is anything but?

      In a long, memorable late night bull session in which my room mates expressed their annoyance at a Morman student who kept proselytizing us, his explanation that he believed that we were headed for Hell if we didn’t see the light, and that he was trying to help us. My blunt room mate responded: “Then you are a pompous self-righteous asshole, and your religion is a menace. Stay out of my way. And go fuck yourself.” This would justify whistle-blowing at Smith for multiple reasons.

      In the actual situation, our Morman friend decided that he needed to rethink his approach. And he did.

      • Chris

        There are more than two dozen kinds of violations, according to Smith’s website—including bias incidents and harassment. The university defines harassment as “unfair treatment, uninvited or unwelcome verbal or physical conduct,” because of “race, creed, color, religion, national/ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age,” or disability status.

        Explain this to me like I’m stupid: what’s wrong with this definition? And how would you define harassment?

        n a long, memorable late night bull session in which my room mates expressed their annoyance at a Morman student who kept proselytizing us, his explanation that he believed that we were headed for Hell if we didn’t see the light, and that he was trying to help us. My blunt room mate responded: “Then you are a pompous self-righteous asshole, and your religion is a menace. Stay out of my way. And go fuck yourself.” This would justify whistle-blowing at Smith for multiple reasons.

        I don’t see how. This was part of an ongoing conversation, right? I don’t think it qualifies as “uninvited or unwelcome verbal or physical conduct” if the complainant is the one who started the verbal exchange. Nor do I think it counts as unfair treatment.

        • But that’s the whole point, Chris. It isn’t what you think or a reasonable, fair person thinks. It’s what an anonymous person who might be angry, hypersensitive, vindictive, or have an agenda chooses to think. There are no conditions that make regular conversations exempt. So if my Mormon roommate felt that the words were unwelcome, or derided his religion, or intimidated him, then he cold certainly find justification to drop a dime on us.

          • Chris

            Your Mormon roommate could have also chosen to file a harassment suit against you.

            He would have been wrong, and would have had no case. That doesn’t mean the government is Stalinesque for allowing harassment suits.

        • Eternal optometrist

          Remember, we’ve been told any criticism of the president must be because he’s black. So all criticisms of any of the presidents policies could be reportable.

    • joed68

      I’d post pictures of, and links to, all of the bumper stickers, memes, campaign slogans,and countless news broadcasts that equate being a Trump supporter with being a bigot, but I’m sure Jack wouldn’t appreciate me polluting his blog.

    • Rusty Rebar

      Just look at what is already happening. I recall a video from maybe two weeks ago where a student was wearing a “Make America Great Again” red hat, and was attacked by another student. “You’re not allowed to share hate language on campus” was the complaint. “Make America great again means make America all for white people, no immigrants, no people of different sexual orientations” Then watch the crowd of supporers surround this guy, and eventually force him to give up his hat

      You really think if she had access to this kind of system she would not use it?

  7. Spartan

    I have to process this for a bit. On the one hand, I don’t like anything that might be used to chill speech (and I’m not sure that is what this hotline is designed to do) but I do like the idea of incidents being reported, just for the sake of information gathering. There are a lot of men out there who do not believe sexism exists. And there are a lot of white people out there who do not believe racism exists. (This ‘ism list can get pretty long so I’ll keep it there.) But one of the reasons that this phenomenon exists is that people don’t talk about negative encounters and they are rarely newsworthy so they remain anecdotal. But if you add all of these episodes up, I do think they can inform us about trends/problems in our society generally and perhaps we can learn from them and address them head on.

    I have an easy example. At a law school, a study was done in a particular class on why men were outperforming women to a large degree. An experiment was done to replace the handwriting/blue book model with access to computer software. The grades suddenly equalized. The conclusion of this study was that the instructors (all male) might have had an inherent bias toward female handwriting. Remove the gender indicator and the genders were treated more equally. Similarly, many symphonies have been doing blind auditions for several years now, and some even go as far as padding the floor so judges cannot guess whether a female or male has entered the stage. Some companies are reviewing resumes with the names redacted.

  8. Al Veerhoff

    This thing sounds Orwellian. Could anyone from Smith offer a rational justification?

  9. Other Bill

    Anonymously reporting private conduct of your neighbors? I’m glad Obama has re-opened relations with the Castro Brother’s plantation. I guess our two societies do have a great deal in common. I’m sure we can learn how to more efficiently snoop on each other from the brave revolutionaries to the south.

    • Chris

      Anonymously reporting harassment and unfair treatment, not private conduct.

      Will there be frivolous complaints lodged? Almost certainly. But unless those frivolous complaints are treated as valid by the school–which we have no evidence is happening–I don’t see the problem.

  10. THE Bill

    Really??

    First Safe Places and now this bullshit?

    And anonymously? Every weak assed 18 year who has never been told he or she isn’t the center of world is going to flood this system every time some hurts their little feelings.

    My best friend in high school was openly gay from his junior year on . This is was 1977-1979 and no one was openly gay in high school.

    One day a football player came up to him called him a faggot and told him so suck his cock. My friend Darren commenced to beat the ever loving shit out of the football player until he was on the ground bleeding and crying.

    He and no one else ever messed with Darren again.

    THATS how you handle people messing with you.

    Not be some anonymous reporting line.

    • Chris

      It’s awesome that Darren was able to physically overpower his bully, but most victims of high school bullying aren’t going to be able to do that. And if that had happened on a college campus, it’s likely that Darren would have been expelled, not the harasser, since you gave no indication that he physically attacked Darren first.

      No, a reporting line seems better.

      • THE Bill

        “And if that had happened on a college campus, it’s likely that Darren would have been expelled, not the harasser, since you gave no indication that he physically attacked Darren first.”

        All that shows is that the colleges in this country are so screwed up that they don’t see that if someone comes up to you , calls you a faggot and tells you to suck his cock, you are more then in your right to beat their ass. To see it any other way is why so many kids today are bullied. They are told to not be assertive or aggressive and violence is never the answer . When in some instances the best response to someone being an ass is you beat their ass.

        I was bullied in high school my freshmen year. I was the new kid and only 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed maybe 112 pounds. This group of seniors took it upon themselves to get other freshmen to pick fights with me. I got my ass beat a couple times but every single one of them didn’t come back a second time as I always fought back. After I seriously hurt one attacker the incidents stopped. The bullies learned I wasn’t just going to take their abuse and the people around me learned that I wasn’t someone to back down from anything and they could depend on me.

        All those kids, and I hate calling them kids as they are college age and should be called adults, are going to learn from this is that when you have a problem run to your school, or their parents or anyone else instead of standing up for yourself and stopping the abuse.

        • Spartan

          I’m not even sure why this thread got off on this tangent.

          We were originally talking about bias/harassment, not bullying. Are you suggesting that I should have beat up some of my male teachers who didn’t think women belonged in their higher mathematics classes? The first time, I was 16.

          Or the construction workers that whistle at me? Am I supposed to physically confront them?

          How about the male law partners who would only invite the male associates to work on their high profile matters? Should I beat them up too?

          I’m all for standing up for myself when appropriate and safe, but you can’t use this blanket rule for everybody. And — moving on to bullying, bullies typically pick the most emotionally and physically vulnerable among us. Your solution seems to be, “Well, you shouldn’t be emotionally and physically vulnerable.” That’s akin to telling someone with manic depression that they just need to feel happy.

          Plus, your solution is putting the burden on people who are doing nothing wrong. That is ridiculous. The onus should be on people to not be bullies, harassers, or just plain biased in the first place. And, if they are, perhaps it is appropriate to let our more vulnerable people anonymously report them. That doesn’t mean that anything will happen or even that an investigation will occur. But if a dozen young women report that Professor McGrabbyHands propositioned them, maybe the University will look into it and women will feel safe coming forward publicly at that point.

          • THE Bill

            No I am not saying that everything needs to be settled through violence what I am saying is stand up for yourself and confront the people harassing you. Don’t depend on anyone else to do it for you.

            “Plus, your solution is putting the burden on people who are doing nothing wrong. That is ridiculous. The onus should be on people to not be bullies, harassers, or just plain biased in the first place.”

            And your putting it on a third party to stop it instead of being responsible and stopping it yourself.

        • Chris

          All that shows is that the colleges in this country are so screwed up that they don’t see that if someone comes up to you , calls you a faggot and tells you to suck his cock, you are more then in your right to beat their ass.

          It is the law, not colleges, that says you cannot do that. Do you understand that what you are advocating will likely get a victim of harassment in legal trouble?

          • Slick Willy

            Chris, you miss the point on this reporting system. The law allows us to face our accusers. This system does not allow that right. An investigation based on unverifiable accusation is a waste of resources, and patently unfair, as it WILL be used just to harass others without consequence.

            We also have a right to self defense. This is why the law should not pursue the victim, and in many cases it does not. Yes, settling things with force could get you into trouble. That is the price you pay for self respect.

      • Steve-O-in-NJ

        Even if you aren’t a big guy, all you need to do is deliver a disabling hit quickly, then the other guy is all yours. When I was in middle school a guy much bigger than me pulled off my hat for about the fifth time. I lost it and charged him. Since I was moving downhill I had gravity working for me, and he fell down very quickly. I grabbed him by both ears and smashed his head against the asphalt five times. He never touched my hat again. I was not disciplined, the guy got what was coming to him. That said, as we start moving into high school and college, that’s not always possible – a not yet developed freshman is going to be powerless against a 16yo football player who decides to use his size and popularity to be an ass, unless he decides to go Harris and Klebold. That also said, I think we want to teach kids to develop a thick skin and the ability to let bs roll off their backs, not encourage them to be tattletales and whiners every time someone says something they don’t like.

        • Spartan

          I once hit a bully over the head with my piccolo case — he was hurt, but he didn’t have to go to the hospital. I received an in-school suspension for using force.

        • joed68

          My youngest son is 7, and is already a brown belt in Kaolin Kempo karate. When he’s old enough, I’ll be teaching him Krav Maga. He’s not going to have a bully problem.

          • Slick Willy

            Got a son that learned karate for the same reason. Bullies picked on him once after that, and never again. One hit him and the reaction (ingrained self defense move) made it clear who was in trouble. All he ever had to do after that was casually drop into defensive posture (cat foot stance) and wait for the aggressor to move. They chose to leave well enough alone.

            (Note that he knew that use of his skills as a bully would have harsh consequences at home 🙂 )

            The threat of force many times avoids the encounter at all.

    • joed68

      “Every weak assed 18 year who has never been told he or she isn’t the center of world is going to flood this system every time some hurts their little feelings.”
      Think about all the ways that engineering a whole generation of delicate little flowers could come in handy, politically at least.

  11. sue

    What I find most disappointing about this new system – and let’s be fair, this is not a “new” system, it is merely an on-line version of McCarthyism at its’ worst – is that it does not teach students what is a legally actionable act. It simply allows students to complain about anyone or anything that hurts their feelings.

    Certainly, such a system has value if you’re just looking for a way to allow students to vent, or screw around – “hey, I’m telling the on-line system about you, jerk”. But this system allows students to create a downward spiral of emotional abuse that will apparently be legally actionable in some way on the campus, thus hurting many students, faculty and support personnel, and potentially resulting in the end of careers.

    Let’s be frank; young adults that are 18-21 years old, living away from home for the first time are not the most emotionally stable people on the continent. This is supposed to be a period of time for them to grow in many ways, including emotionally. I think most college graduates (and probably all college drop-outs) have a story or two about drinking, fornicating, smoking something or other, or doing some minor illegal act while they were in college. But, for the most part, they learn and grow out of it. They find out first hand what happens when you binge drink, or bust up mailboxes, or get caught with weed and learn that this is not something they can do for the rest of their lives.

    This system merely infantilizes young adults who have gone to college to learn how to become adults. It teaches them that they can acquire cheap power by ratting (truthfully or not) on another student or faculty. It also teaches them that any action or comment they personally make could be overly scrutinized and cause them to suffer. It will teach them that they cannot simply meet someone at the library and make a new friend, because you can’t take people at face value – indeed, within a few sentences you could say something that would antagonize the possible new friend and get you reported.

    This system will reinforce students that the best (and safest) active social life they can have is within a video game or other on-line world. And that is a shame.

    • Steve-O-in-NJ

      On-line college, anyone? All the substance and none of this proto-fascist garbage and danger, plus you can use a reasonably clean bathroom and go to sleep without trying to block out blaring stereos, your roommate’s third attempt at getting lucky, or just some idiot banging on your door to wake you up just because he’s drunk and he can.

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