UNC prof shares tale of censorship by Bias Response Team
A former University of Northern Colorado professor is accusing the school’s administration of violating his academic freedom following the release of a private conversation he had with the Bias Response Team.
Heat Street first broke the news that an anonymous professor was summoned to meet with UNC’s ethics officer for Title IX, Marshall Parks, after the school’s Bias Response Team received a complaint from a student who alleged that his professor’s discussion of sensitive material had made him feel uncomfortable.
In a recording of the conversation, the unidentified professor was asked to cease discussing transgender issues in the classroom because one of his students who identifies as a transwoman “was very offended and hurt by this.”
Apparently, while discussing an article from The Atlantic called “The Coddling of the American Mind,” the professor made what he considered a clever argument against transgenderism simply to spur conversation.
One student, however, was deeply offended by the discussion and took his complaint to the Bias Response Team, which later threatened the professor with disciplinary sanctions if he were to continue discussing the issue.
“This would be hilariously ironic if it wasn’t kind of sad,” the professor can be heard saying in a recording of his conversation with the Bias Response Team. “The article says, what students do is they run right to people and complain, and so professors are afraid to talk about things for fear that they’re going to have this meeting here, and that’s exactly what this student did—did exactly what this article talks about.”
Now, the professor, who initially wished to remain anonymous out of concerns of retaliation, has revealed his identity, saying he felt pressured to self-censor “constantly” in order to avoid being reported to the school’s Bias Response Team.
“I did not want to go back in and deal with this and have it go to the next level,” Professor Mike Jensen told The Greeley Tribune, adding that this academic freedom has clearly been violated. “I thought this was a great article to use to explain, ‘this is what we’re going to do—address things like adults and not like children.’”
Since Jensen came forward, Colorado state senator John Cooke sent a letter to the school’s president, condemning the “chilling” atmosphere for free speech on his campus.
“I am both astonished and disappointed by what is happening at my alma mater the University of Northern Colorado,” he wrote. “It appears UNC leadership has decided that so-called ‘tolerance and diversity’ is justification for intolerance and intimidation.”
Some First Amendment advocates, including the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), have ridiculed the administration for censoring free speech on its campus.
“That should be alarming that an administrator is telling a professor, ‘do not address this subject in your classes,” FIRE attorney Adam Steinbaugh told The Tribune. “If you have someone [who] can write you up or subject you to a disciplinary process, that would raise substantial First Amendment concerns.”
Jensen, who has not yet been invited back to teach at UNC in the fall, said it is “absolutely nuts” that his school is censoring his classroom discussions.
“In my view, it’s absolutely nuts in an educational setting to say, ‘you can’t talk about these things,’” he said. “It’s the absolute opposite of what academia is supposed to be about.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski