Goldwater Institute Helps Uncover Free Speech Concerns at the University of Arizona

University of Arizona

A recent report revealed that there may be issues concerning free speech on the University of Arizona campus following the disclosure of bias complaint documents.

“Colleges throughout the country have set up anonymous reporting systems where students inform on their peers to campus authorities, creating social justice activists who blow the whistle on their classmates’ politically incorrect social media posts or professors who fail to use the most up-to-date ‘wokeisms,'” according to a press release from the Goldwater Institute. “Now, the Goldwater Institute has uncovered what the University of Arizona tried to hide: an Orwellian campus reporting apparatus that fosters a culture of fear over free speech.”

Last year, Christian Schneider of The College Fix submitted a public record request for any complaints made under the UA’s “Bias Education & Support Team” (BEST) but was denied by the the university despite requesting names be withheld and having the same request granted the prior year. In response, Goldwater Institute sent the U of A a letter in July arguing that the request denial violated Arizona law. Weeks later, the university yielded the documents.

Schneider told the institute that having this information is essential so parents can be aware of the conditions their children may face on college campuses.

“Universities across America have effectively set up surveillance states that encourage students and professors to anonymously inform on each other,” Schneider said. “It is vital that public institutions of higher learning provide the public full disclosure so citizens can make informed decisions about where their kids will be able to best exercise their First Amendment rights.”

According to the university, BEST is “committed to fostering a safe and inclusive environment” on campus. Under the program, students can submit anonymous bias complaints to administrators, which can be against other students or faculty. While U of A states that BEST does not “restrict free speech” or “issue disciplinary sanctions,” optional opportunities to “engage in activities and dialogue that promote education, understanding, and healing” can be offered.

As reported from The College Fix, Schneider obtained 13 reports through the request. In one instance, a female student was reported to the administration for drawing “a Black person picking cotton in a field.” The complaint outlined that the student was playing, an online Pictionary-like game, and received the word “cotton.” The student claimed that she did not specifically “denote the race of the person” and was “only trying to make a historical reference” with no discriminatory intent. Still, another student called the incident “very inappropriate and distressing.”

Furthermore, Schneider shared more complaints, including a teacher reported for using “outdated” terms to refer to transgender people, such as transsexual and transgendered. The student who submitted the complaint said the professor “should know and use the proper terminology” and that trans students “should not be made to listen to professors use these outdated and offensive terms.”

Another professor was reported for using George Floyd as an example while discussing “the theory of symbolic interaction and shared meanings” to say she could not “share the meaning of people’s grievances” in this situation as someone who has never had a negative experience with the police. One student involved in the complaint said “supporting the police openly in class” during a “sensitive time in this country” was “completely unprofessional.”

Moreover, Speech First evaluated 824 higher education institutions nationwide and found that over 50 percent had bias reporting systems. The groups shared that these systems can create an environment of fear that silences unwanted opinions through self-censorship.

As reported by Inside Higher Ed, a survey showed that 83 percent of college students engaged in some form of self-censorship in 2021.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].




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