Last week I wrote a piece at The Daily Caller about how libertarians are leading the fight for free speech on college campuses. How appropriate, then, to learn just a few days later that my alma mater is launching a new anti-bias campaign with free speech implications, albiet at a private school.
Wake Forest University kicked off the fall 2014 semester by instituting a campus-wide online system that has the potential to restrict free speech by allowing students and staff to anonymously* file reports on any occurrences they deem biased or hateful.
*From my reading of the incident report page, the reports do not seem to be anonymous.
Known as the Bias Incident Report system, the online form does not specify the criteria for filing a report, nor does it explicitly define the word “bias.” Instead, students are pressured to submit a report anytime they believe they are encountering an incident of hate or bias — potentially opening the floodgates for students to report incidents without cause.
The report form lists a bevy of reasons an incident could be perceived as biased, some of which include: citizenship, gender identity, national origin, pregnancy, religion, sexual orientation and economic background. The form even offers an option to upload a video, photos or audio of the occurrence.
While this initiative does seem to be a good faith attempt to respond to campus events, I still would question whether the potential for abuse outweighs the potential benefits.
As Wake Forest is a private school, FIRE and similar organizations are limited in their ability to contest this policy. But I will be very interested to see how this plays out.