Bowling Green State University (BGSU) claims to be committed to free expression. But by maintaining a bias reporting system, it contradicts that commitment. BGSU warns students that bias incidents will not be tolerated. It sweeps protected speech into its definition of bias when it says that bias incidents include language, such as name-calling, stereotyping, and belittling others. Because BGSU is abdicating its duty to uphold free expression, SLF sent the University a letter demanding that it remove the bias reporting system from campus.
SLF explains in its letter that bias reporting systems are dangerous and unconstitutional because they scare students into silence. If students can be reported for any language that causes someone to feel “belittled” or otherwise hurt, and if the University can investigate and even punish students for that language, students will choose to remain silent rather than risk facing discipline.
The University’s website proves that these fears are well-founded. According to its website, students have been reported to campus authorities for playing a card game in their dorm room. The University has also taken action based on reports that textbooks use outdated medical terms regarding transgender individuals. If students can be reported and investigated for comments made in the privacy of their rooms, the risk is high that conservative and libertarian students will be investigated for comments made during public speech activities.