Smith College hires firm to operate 24/7 'bias response' hotline

At Smith College, students now have access to an anonymous 24/7 bias hotline and online portal that can be used to report instances of bias, discrimination, and harassment.

The Sophian reports that EthicsPoint is a third-party service that is already in use at schools such as Amherst College, Tufts University, and Brown University, operating a 24/7 bias reporting system for incidents that do not merit a call to the police.

“Unfair,” “uninvited” or “unwelcome” verbal or physical conduct, as well as “bigotry, harassment, or intimidation,” are among the behaviors that Smith invites students to report to the hotline

According to the EthicsPoint reporting portal, this misconduct can include “but is not limited to, slurs, graffiti, written messages, or images.”

[RELATED: UNC claims Christmas vacations, golf outings are microaggressions]

While she declined to give examples of the types of conduct that should be reported, Smith College spokeswoman Stacey Schmeidel told Campus Reform that “Smith has adopted EthicsPoint—a service used by more than 800 higher education institutions around the world—as a supplement to, not a replacement for, existing in-house options.”

The reporting portal does not require any login information, which allows anyone, regardless of whether they are actually affiliated with the college, to make a report.

NavexGlobal, the company that runs EthicsPoint, did not respond to requests for comment.

[RELATED: Rapid growth of Bias Response Teams generates backlash]

Yet while the administration has a positive view of the the new 24/7 reporting system, not all students do.

“There is a considerable risk that this will be abused by students since virtually anything could be reported on” Kira Barrett, a junior at Smith, told Campus Reform.

Barrett isn’t only concerned with potential abuse of the reporting system, but with how it might effect free expression on campus, too.

[RELATED: Augustana cracks down on speech after ‘threatening’ Trump chalkings]

“The notion that students may report their peers for being ‘biased’ and holding different views is chilling,” she remarked, arguing that the process “does not encourage the free expression of ideas” and “may exacerbate the climate of self-censorship.”

Barnett, in an op-ed, said of her very first days at Smith that she “learned, along with every other student, to walk on eggshells for fear that [she] may say something ‘offensive,’” because “that is the social norm here.”

At Miami University in Ohio, students uncomfortable with professors who mention Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in class are also directed to EthicsPoint, the school newspaper reported earlier this month.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen