The University of Illinois Police stifle free speech by participating in “bias response”

January 9, 2019 • 12:00 pm

Many universities, including public ones, have created “bias response teams,” in which speech considered hateful or offensive is reported to University authorities and dealt with promptly. The number of these teams is growing.

While universities are perfectly free to recommend standards of civil discourse, public schools must adhere to the First Amendment and thus have no right to police speech unless it falls into the Amendment’s exceptions: speech that’s a clear and present danger, that is libelous, that creates a climate of harassment that impedes education, and so on.

But those aren’t the standards that colleges use. The 2017 Bias Response Team report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) gives examples of the kinds of incidents that get reported (punishments are often not mentioned). Here are two at public schools:

  • Appalachian State University [North Carolina]: A student filed a report regarding the 2016 presidential election, claiming to be “offended by the politically biased slander that is chalked up everywhere reading ‘TRUMP IS A RACIST’” and describing the “slander” as “unlawful.” Another report stated that supporters of then-candidate Bernie Sanders were “destroying” messages chalked by Trump supporters by drawing penises next to them. Yet another report complained that a pro-Trump student organization was using chalk to write “hate speech” in support of Trump. Another series of reports was filed against a student activist on several grounds: tweeting that she “hate[s] white men”; “refus[ing] to support all students if a student fits the certain stereotype of a white male”; “display[ing] disturbing apathy [and] ignorance and bitterness”; and “express[ing] profound disregard for the lives of students based on race and gender and for [police] officers based on their careers.”
  • University of Texas at Austin: The Campus Climate Response Team (CCRT) fielded dozens of reports about a conservative student group’s protest of affirmative action in the form of an “affirmative action bake sale.” 94% of the reports sought disciplinary action. Administrators met with the student group following the reports and acknowledged in an open letter that it was the student group’s “right to” engage in the protest. The CCRT’s annual report also disclosed that “[f]aculty and student commentary in the classroom perceived as derogatory and insensitive” was an example of the “types of incidents” reported to the CCRT

Now, as we see in the UT incident, the reports aren’t always punished, but even having these teams encourages students to participate in the Offense Culture, as well as creating a chilling atmosphere in which students are fearful of contravening the acceptable ideologies on their campuses. And the teams swell the already bloated college administrations that are top-heavy with people whose job it is to enforce ideology. Indeed, even the very name “bias response team” shows that’s what being monitored and punished here is “bias” itself.

Bias response teams aren’t really needed, I think: present college disciplinary committees (every college has one) can take care of the truly harmful kinds of speech that are pretty rare.

But now the police force of the University of Illinois (UI) has gotten involved in the college’s bias response team—the first time I’ve know that college cops have been recruited to police speech.

Here’s what they recently posted on the University Facebook page:

Get that: call the University cops “if you feel unsafe”! (Of course, they mean “unsafe because of language”, not “unsafe because of potential physical harm.”) This is not only excessive coddling, and suffers from all the problems of bias response teams, but, by getting the police involved, creates an even more chilling atmosphere. Why should the university police get involved unless there’s a crime at issue? Police involvement would seem to be more of a deterrent to free speech than would the existence of “bias response teams.”

The U of I police also tweeted the same message on their webpage:

As if that weren’t enough, UI outlines what it considers “bias-motivated incidents”, all of which, when they involve speech, are perfectly legal under First Amendment. Of course it’s illegal to deny someone their rights based on age, gender, ethnicity, and so on, but it’s not illegal to issue “expressions” of them, odious though they may be. And “religion/spirituality” is also included in the list: no criticizing Judaism, Islam, or Methodism!

Click on the screenshot to see the whole page;

To put the icing on this unpalatable cake, the members of UI’s bias response team include Rachael Ahart, who happens to be a detective for the UI Police Department.

The University of Illinois should be ashamed of itself, and its police force should get out of the bias response business as soon as possible.


30 thoughts on “The University of Illinois Police stifle free speech by participating in “bias response”

    1. Hero? Condell and I are often on the same side (more or less) but after watching a more than a few of his rants I can only conclude the guy is deranged. He’s wound WAY too tight.

      There are saner, more rational voices out there to pick our heroes from. Just saying.

  1. When does the name change from University of to Nursery of? Your tax money at work. I guess they should just do like Trump and build a wall around the campus. It looks like a crisis.

  2. I get a little bit of comfort from seeing that some of the folks whining to cops and admins about big meanies on campus are right wingers. Leftists wanted protection for snowflakes but it’s evil white people who are claiming it. An object lesson in slippery slopes for regressives. Not that they will learn from it.

  3. Do the speech police carry guns? That would be first in the U.S. and beyond the most paranoid fears by free speech absolutists.

  4. It’s bad enough when cops are called upon to enforce criminal laws that have an indirect impact on speech, like disturbing the peace, or public nuisance, or hate crimes. Getting them involved in adjudicating civil speech codes is a worse mix than barrel-aged single-malt and soda pop.

  5. This is not only excessive coddling, and suffers from all the problems of bias response teams, but, by getting the police involved, creates an even more chilling atmosphere.

    And somewhat more selfishly, I’d like our police to be focusing their paid hours on catching rapists, thieves, and murderers. Every hour spent dealing with this crap is one more rape kit not properly handled tested.

  6. I question whether the University of Illinois police have a mandate to investigate University rules violations, as opposed to criminal acts. Does these investigations become part of a police record? This is, indeed, chilling to free expression.

  7. Let me hazard a guess: the Univ. Ill. Police department has received specific funds for its services in the critical area of “bias response”. Like the ever-increasing funds available for the various staffs of Offices of Diversity and Equity, etc. etc..

    We are, in short, witnessing that magical combination of ideology and profiteering. Again. The last time it occurred on the present scale was the late Medieval period, when Pardoners, both ecclesiastic and lay, did so well selling indulgences. Perhaps the scale of the present-day racketeering will, in time, lead to a University reformation.

    1. Mention of the Medieval period reminds me that, apparently, a convicted witch’s property was divided amongst his/her accusers.

      All we need now is for the fearful ‘victim’ to be compensated, the money to come from fines levied on the offenders, for the parallel to be complete.


  8. Something I would like to see addressed given the paramount importance of free speech is this:

    I’m critical of Israeli occupation in West Bank and settlements, for a reasonable two-state solution, despise Bibi AND Hamas, regret Arik’s untimely stroke given Kadima moderation and his pragmatic bullheadedness, and don’t think BDS has an agreeable position if one state coupled with right of return. But some law that upfront limits my right to think for myself and express and act on said preferences in such manner pisses me off on principle alone. Reactance is a powerful thing.

  9. Campus Climate Response Team sounds an excellent idea. Every university should have a unit promoting conservation, minimising wastage of energy, and generally raising awareness of the threat of ‘global warming’.

    Am I right?


  10. “… the police force of the University of Illinois …”
    Do universities have a police force in Illinois???

  11. “Please let us know if you feel unsafe.”

    I have not felt especially unsafe in US when I work there, nor especially safe. But the reason for the latter has not been words or bias, unsavory as they can be, but the violent presence of allowing guns among public and having death penalties.

  12. I think the anecdote to Victim Culture is positive modeling and encouragement of Dignity Culture. And I know that people complain that kids are in too many activities and so on for this to be possible today, but I don’t see that as being an issue – I’d have to dig to find the names, but there are really good curriculums that work on teaching kids independent conflict resolution, where an adult is present to help them learn but the focus is on kids resolving things between themselves. (And I actually think this happy medium is better, as totally unstructured ‘conflict resolution’ between kids often turns into bullying. We seem to have both extremes at the moment – on the one hand some young people seem totally dependent on authority figures to resolve anything, on the other some are turning to vigilante justice groups. Neither extreme is good, to my mind.)

    I’m also beginning to feel strongly that online culture is a big part of this problem, and that parents need to do a better job of helping kids to grow up with a sense of autonomy and appropriate boundaries. When I was younger the whole “I’m your parent, not your friend!” meme was big, in an attempt to correct for permissive parenting. But I think in a way it went too far, and now parents feel free to share, shame, overshare, and trash talk their kids online because “They’re the parent”. When I see some of the things people post about their kids online I think, well, no wonder they grow up without any sense of appropriate boundaries or dignity. I’m sure it’s hard for a parent not to post cute but questionable pictures that they find adorable, like their toddler potty training; or get some relief during the trying teen years by posting the totally disrespectful thing their teen just said and whipping up an online comment-support group for validation – but I think it teaches kids terrible lessons as they’re growing up. If your own *family doesn’t have the impulse control to think about how sharing embarrassing personal information may impact you when you go to find a job, what lesson does that teach about treating others with respect and dignity?

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