Bias incidents, and why I started this website

The following is a letter I sent to my university’s president regarding incidents that have been classified as ‘bias incidents’ multiple times. After reading such emails, and seeing the political climate within my school lean towards more post-modernist ideas, I’ve been inclined to write about my thoughts.

This letter lead to me creating this website, and writing other posts on the topic. More specifically, the “auto-filled” response form I received from this email was rather disappointing, and frustrating.

This site also serves as a place for me to think about my own ideas, to attempt to understand myself and the world around me. Anything else, such as readership, that comes from the content creation of this site is secondary. I will gladly engage in conversation with the readers, however my focus will be to try and organize my thoughts.

 

Hello [University President],

I would like to start off by saying that I appreciate the work the school has done thus far in eliminating hateful and racist actions taken by members of our community. These acts should not be tolerated, and given the response to the recent demonstrations of hate, it’s clear these incidents are taken seriously.

After reading the last few emails sent regarding such incidents, {redacted}, the term “bias incident” is being used throughout the emails in each institution-wide message.

What do you define as a bias incident? I understand incidents involving hate can be categorized as hate crime, or hate speech, but the term “bias incident” seems far too broad to use in criminal prosecution, especially when used to define policy and procedures going forward.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, two such definitions of bias, at least the two I assume are most closely related to the context in the emails, are as such:

b :an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially :a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment     :prejudice

  c :an instance of such prejudice

These definitions can be found here: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bias

In the context of prejudice, such a term is also very broad without giving context to the situation. Based on the context of the email messages, it can be assumed that such terms, both “bias” and “prejudice”, are referring to more hateful actions to a group of people, or to an individual.

However, I fear that given the broad interpretation of these two terms, if they are given merit in legal prosecution, or in legislation affecting our community, that these broad terms have the potential to be used in a way that was not intended of it’s original inceptors.

I have a great deal of trust in our community to uphold the correct values and goals of these terms if they are used in legislation. However, as an institution, and as a community, we should not be relying on correct assumptions to be made today, and the future, instead we should be clearly defining what these actions are in the context of the law. Are these hate crimes, hate speech, or another form of crime? Describing such actions as bias incidents does not give these circumstances the weight it deserves, especially given the current political climate.

We should not be tiptoeing over clearly defining what crimes have been committed. For if we broadly categorize such incidents as broadly as they are being described now, I fear we are on the path to an Orwellian society. It is the responsibility of academic institutions to uphold the values of today, and to ensure that time does not erode them to misinterpretations tomorrow.

Again, I believe the faculty and community at {university} have good intentions in mind, to prevent hate crime, and to foster the learning of it’s students. But I feel that I must speak up when I see the canary’s breath labor within the mine.

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