The University of Northern Colorado has a Bias Response Team, which it dispatches to address so-called “bias-related behavior.” Students can file complaints, and the team prepares incident reports about them, which Heat Street has exclusively reviewed.
Some students reported genuinely concerning incidents of sexual harassment or racism. Others filed complaints after witnessing what appeared to be typical, if somewhat bawdy, college pranks and shenanigans.
Many more complaints, however, were filed when students took offense for preposterous reasons. Here are the most ridiculous reports we found, as well as UNC’s responses.
One student was offended on behalf of valence electrons.
On the first day of class last fall, a student attended a class where the professor was discussing valence electrons. “She gave an example saying it is like you and a friend sharing one plate of food, you would each get half but you would think you each actually had a whole plate of food. She then proceeded to joke and say ‘So I guess valence electrons are just kind of retarded,’” the student wrote in an incident report submitted to the Bias Response Team.
The student, who asked to remain confidential, added that in such a large class, the professor “could offend a lot of people,” adding that “faculty should definitely not be using that word in a derogatory manor [sic] even if it wasn’t directed at a person.”
The Bias Response Team contacted the professor and “talked about the connection of the R-word to identity and how to use different words to describe slow, unaware delayed, etc.” The professor apologized and “shared that she would change her language,” the incident report says.
A student was upset by posters that used the word “crazy.”
One student was aghast to come across “posters displayed in the residence halls that contained the word ‘crazy’ used in a mocking and flippant way.” It’s unclear what the poster said, though incident report mentions to a source document with the phrase “NamasCRAY,” possibly a yoga reference.
The student said that after she initially complained, she was told the posters would stay up until more research had been conducted; after reading a Huffington Post op-ed and a blog post, someone referred to as “the proper party” (presumably an RA) decided that “the posters were not considered offensive.”
The student then filed a report with the Bias Response Team, demanding not only that the posters be taken down but that the university “hold [the RA] accountable for her responses.”
It’s unclear how the Bias Response Team followed up. The incident report mentions that no sanctions, charges, or actions were listed.
A student was upset after she encountered someone who had liked a “fat-shaming” Facebook post.
A student contacted the Bias Response Team because “they were concerned when they saw [name redacted], a [position redacted], liked a status that supported fat-shaming.” The offending Facebook post said, “Quit being a fat ass.”
A Bias Response Team member asked the complainant to screenshot the post and send it in. The Bias Response Team also emailed about the liked post, saying that “I feel a conversation would be worthy.”
It is unclear if any follow-up action was taken.
A student was upset that the Health Center offered her birth control.
In another incident reported to the Bias Response Team, a female student went to get a physical before embarking on an outdoor trip, and a Health Center employee asked if she needed birth control. The employee explaining that some students used “a physical” as a euphemism for birth control appointments.
“Very arrogated [sic] at this moment I interrupted her and informed her that I am no longer interested in receiving services at this clinic. Where she said, ‘I’m sorry, did I offend you?’ Where I chose to walk away,” the student wrote in her complaint.
The student wrote that the employee must have assumed she needed birth control “plainly on the aspects of my appearance.” She continued: “This seems the only logical reason because I never asked about birth control or even suggested the fact. Even after I corrected her multiple times, when she finally apologized she did not seem very sincere. Also there is the fact that even if I did need birth control she was not desecrate [sic] about it in any way shape or form. … I felt insulted, put down, and overall uncomfortable.”
A member of the Bias Response Team emailed the complaining student back, saying, “I would like to thank you for filing a report as well as acknowledge the harm that was caused in your visit.” She also said she would be meeting with the Health Clinic’s human resources office “to address concerns with customer service procedures that are unacceptable, such as the experience you encountered during your visit.”
A complainant worried that a healthy alternatives food competition would be “triggering” to students with eating disorders.
During Eating Disorder Awareness Week, the university hosted a competition where students could win prizes by finding healthy cooking alternatives. A complainant reached out, saying that “this event heightens… negative food rules by making it a competition which is highly triggering.”
In an email responding to the student, the university’s assistant director of community standards and conflict resolution wrote: “I would agree that I am concerned around the impact the event may have caused considering the messaging of the event did not support awareness or empathy for those who identify as someone with an eating disorder and/or someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder.”
The Bias Response Team sent an email to the complainant, inviting her to help students who felt triggered to submit a report.
Another student complained it was “slut-shamey” when someone described her friend as a “bro-hopper.”
In another complaint submitted to the Bias Response Team, a student described overhearing students talk about “a woman who allegedly has relationships with multiple men,” as well as other women who do the same, using the term “bro-hopper.” The complaining student described the conversation as “slut-shamey.”
In notes concerning the incident, the assistant director of community standards and conflict resolution wrote that she “believe[s] this behavior intersects with Title IX.” The BRT seems to have had several conversations to discuss the incident with students and witnesses who were involved in the offending conversation.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Independent Women’s Forum and the Steamboat Institute.