(Oct. 4, 2022) Milwaukee, WI: Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) sent a letter to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) demanding that the University revise its anti-bias code and bias reporting system. The University has a website called “Hate/Bias,” where it encourages students to report each other to its Office of Equity/Diversity Services anytime they witness a so-called bias incident.
As SLF explains in its letter, sent as part of its 1A Project, bias reporting systems are unconstitutional for many reasons. UWM encourages its students to report anything they believe is hate speech or biased speech. But hate speech and offensive speech are protected by the Constitution. If a student is reported for bias, the Office of Equity/Diversity Services has the power to subjectively decide whether it thinks bias occurred and whether to punish that student. And UWM’s bias reporting form is completely anonymous, meaning students can falsely report their conservative and libertarian peers for bias as a way of shutting down their speech.
“During the pandemic, colleges had COVID reporting forms that looked just like bias reporting forms. Students would falsely accuse each other of violating campus COVID rules, and in doing so, they shut down conservative and libertarian speech. The same concern is present with UWM’s bias reporting form,” states Director SLF’s 1A Project, Cece O’Leary.
Adds SLF Director of Litigation Braden Boucek, “It’s no secret that colleges are always coming up with new ways to silence conservative and libertarian students. This is just the latest iteration, where administrators rely on students to report each other. Administrators feel a lot better about silencing students when they can convince themselves they are shielding others from offensive views. But that is unconstitutional.”