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June 24 2016

College Professors Muzzled for Inviting Classroom Debate on Controversial Topics

Charlotte Allen

No open debate on issues, please, we’re a college classroom.

At the University of Northern Colorado, a public institutions, two professors who started class discussions featuring opposing viewpoints on such hot-button topics such as transgenderism were…investigated by campus administrators. And then told to shut up.

Yes, you read that right. Here’s the story from Heat Street, which had filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see how the university’s Bias Response Team responded to student complaints about professors’ teaching styles:

In one report reviewed by Heat Street’s Jillian Kay Melchior (who’s also a fellow here at the IWF), a professor, "whose name was redacted, had asked students to read an Atlantic article entitled “The Coddling of the American Mind,” about college students’ increasing sensitivity and its impact on their mental health."

The professor then asked his students to come up with difficult topics, including transgender issues, gay marriage, abortion and global warming. He outlined competing positions on these topics, though he did not express his personal opinion….

A member of the Bias Response Team met with the professor, the report says, and “advised him not to revisit transgender issues in his classroom if possible to avoid the students expressed concerns.” The Bias Response Team also “told him to avoid stating opinions (his or theirs) on the topic as he had previously when working from the Atlantic article.”

In other words, censorship.

Here’s what triggered that visit from the Bias Response Team:

“I would just like the professor to be educated about what trans is and how what he said is not okay because as someone who truly identifies as a transwomen I was very offended and hurt by this….”

And here’s the other incident:

…[A] professor, whose name was also redacted, asked his students to choose from a list of debate topics, some of them regarding homosexuality and religion.

The Bias Response Team’s notes summarized: “Specifically there were two topics of debate that triggered them and personally felt like an attack on their identity (GodHatesFags.com: is this harmful? Is this acceptable? Is this Christianity? And Gay Marriage: should it be legal? Is homosexuality immoral as Christians suggest?)”…

The Bias Response Team wrote that while this incident “did not reach a level of discrimination,” members still contacted the professor to “have a conversation… [and] listen to his perspective, share the impact created for the student and dialogue about options to strengthen his teaching.”

The Bias Response Team wrote that once the conversation was completed, they wanted a full report of “the outcome of your time together. . . so I can document and share with the student that outreach was completed.”

In other words, censorship and re-education camp.

The student had complained:

“[O]ther students are required to watch the in-class debate and hear both arguments presented.”

“I do not believe that students should be required to listen to their own rights and personhood debated…[This professor] should remove these topics from the list of debate topics….”

The coddling of the American mind? How about the muzzling of the American mind? Since when did stifling civilized open debate instead of encouraging it become the goal of a university?

And as Melchior notes, more than 100 public universities in the U.S. now have Bias Response Teams like Northern Colorado’s. So expect more incidents like the above.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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