Since the beginning of 2019, The College Fix has investigated reports made to university bias response teams operating on campuses across the country.
So far, The Fix has obtained nearly 300 incident reports at 11 schools through public records act requests. The requests sought all reports filed during the fall 2018 semester at each campus.
The results run the gamut. Reports bemoan everything from hurt feelings and professors’ jokes to off-hand comments and simple misunderstandings.
Here’s a list of some of the most ridiculous, puzzling reports we’ve uncovered so far.
1. Student reports roommate for watching Ben Shapiro video (Michigan State)
A Michigan State University student awoke from his nap to see his roommate sitting at his computer. There was a video playing, and the student realized his roommate was watching a video of conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. The student then filed a complaint with the administration’s bias reporting system against his roommate for watching the Shapiro video.
“Ben Shapiro is known for his inflammatory speech that criticizes and attacks the African American community,” the student wrote in his report against his roommate. “I thought hate had no place on MSU’s campus yet MSU has roomed me with someone who supports hate speach [sic].”
In response to the complaint, the university tasked an investigator to look into the matter, who was told to work for a “room change if the claimant would like one.”
2. 70-year old student tries to attend talk on “microaggressions,” is turned away for being too old (Indiana)
At Indiana University, someone filed a complaint on behalf of a 70-year old nontraditional student auditing a language class who believed he had suffered age and sex discrimination.
The man subscribed to an e-mail list for the Center of Excellence for Women in Technology and when he received notification of a seminar on “microaggressions,” he RSVP’d to attend. Yet when the 70-year old man arrived at the talk, he was approached by a female host of the seminar who allegedly asked, “Why are you here?” and told him “I don’t recognize you.”
When he explained he was a part of the list serv and was registered for the event, the man was asked the same question, “Why are you here?” by a male student employee of the catered event. He described feeling unwelcome at the event (despite noticing that there were other male attendees) and felt as if he was “profiled” and discriminated against for his age – at an event promoting anti-discrimination.
3. Female student upset at being made to read economics book by men (Utah)
A 22-year old female University of Utah student reported her business professor to campus administrators for, among other things, assigning too many historical texts written by influential male economists of the past.
“I understand the importance of studying the work of those before us and the importance of context,” wrote the student in a complaint to the university’s bias reporting system, where she labeled the professor’s transgressions “derogatory,” “degrading,” and “intimidating,” thereby causing a “hostile learning environment.”
“I believe it to no longer be necessary when teaching the foundations of our country’s economic system and those who helped build [its] ideals to be presented in conjunction with their sexist beliefs that have already planted their roots within our global and local communities,” the student stated in her complaint.
In the female student’s bias report, she stated that while her professor “never applauded these philosophers on their sexist beliefs,” he “never outright said they were wrong” and “continued to place them upon a pedestal.”
4. Female resident advisor thinks fraternity is racist after seeing a picture of a black student dressed as Santa (Indiana)
At Indiana University, a resident advisor saw a fellow employee scrolling through the Instagram feed of one of her residents, finding some pictures of a fraternity party he had attended. The pictures seemed to suggest the party was not a costume party – everyone in the photos was dressed in “sweaters, sweatshirts, flannels, and dresses.”
Yet, for some reason, the male resident was dressed up as Santa Claus. This “unsettled” the Briscoe Hall RA, as the male resident appeared to be the only student of color at the party.
“The way the people are posing for these photos makes me feel that [the male student] was chosen to wear this costume for a specific reason– these photos make me feel that [he] has been targeted because he is a minority,” the RA wrote.
“I am disgusted to say the least,” the RA added. “This is an exercise of white power and this is discrimination, along with many other unethical acts.”
5. Student in library refuses to force a power plug into his dying computer (Utah)
In a University of Utah library, a group of four male students were sitting at a table studying. A female student just finishing up a group project noticed the table of male students being “loud and distracting.” At one point, a young man wearing a black shirt and khaki shorts complained that his laptop computer battery was dying. One of the other men at the table offered his charger to the student but said the charger is incompatible with his laptop. The student offering the charger replied it would definitely work if you “just force it.” The student put his hands around his mouth and loudly whispered, “That’s rape. I’m not raping my computer.”
The student was then reported by a bystander who overheard the exchange.
6. Food court employee reported for saying “hello” in Japanese (Minnesota)
At the University of Minnesota, a student stopped by one of the restaurants in the Coffman Memorial Union to pick up a snack.
At the register, a food service worker said something the student didn’t understand. When the student said they didn’t get it, the woman at the register said she was saying “hello” in Japanese, and asked where the student was from.
“Wisconsin,” the student replied.
The cashier laughed and told the student to have a nice day, but the student did not find much humor in the experience. The student reported the cashier to the campus Bias Response and Referral Network, claiming “these type of microaggressions occur too often on campus” and “this implicit bias needs to be addressed.”
The bias team then referred the incident to dining services and referred the complaining student to the campus “Ethical Advocate Program” in case they “want to talk further about the experience.”
7. Someone was offended the word “Redskins” appeared on a video wall (North Carolina State)
At North Carolina State University, an individual came upon a large video wall featured in Hunt Library. The “Art Wall” happened to be set to Google Trends Hot Searches, and featured the word “Redskins” in relation to a professional football game being played that weekend.
“It was hurtful seeing a racial slur against my kids and myself repeatedly featured on the Art Wall,” the person wrote in a complaint to the university.
“The even larger, overarching problem is widespread social acceptability of this slur,” the complaint continued. “Having it displayed in bright letters over your family is simply a symptom of a bigger problem.”
In the section where the complainant is supposed to identify the “Impacted Person/Group,” the individual wrote “I don’t know.”
8. Complaint about Hawaiian shirt night (Utah)
A student group at the University of Utah called Outdoor Adventures was scheduled to host a “Hawaiian shirt night.”
“I view this as a micro/macroaggression against our Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population,” reported one female staff member. “It’d be great if OA can change their item to a more inclusive one,” they wrote.
9. Student complains about a discussion of Janet Jackson’s nipple (Indiana)
In a freshman media studies course at Indiana University, a guest lecturer discussed “net neutrality” and the role of the Federal Communications Commission.
To demonstrate the FCC’s duties, the educator cited the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, in which a portion of singer Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed to a national audience of nearly 90 million people. The incident became known as “nipplegate” and reportedly prompted over 540,000 complaints to the commission.
The complainant, who identified themselves as an associate instructor for the course, told campus officials the scholar mentioned the pop star’s nipple several times.
“As a South Asian PhD student who studies race, gender and class representation in the media, I am appalled that such misogynoir was casually conveyed to a 100-level class full of freshmen with no sensitivity whatsoever,” the complaint read. The student reported that these “offhand misogynistic comments about a Black woman’s body were not clarified as ‘wrong’ by [the lecturer], no further explanation was given.”
10. Trump sticker in faculty window causes hostile learning environment (Nebraska)
A University of Nebraska-Lincoln employee was in Omaha when they noticed a Donald Trump sticker in a faculty member’ office window facing the hallway.
“While it was an individual’s office space, it is reflective of the college and creates a climate that can be challenging particularly for women, LGBTQA, and students of color,” the employee reported.
11. Professor reported for calling students a ‘waste of space’ for failing exam (Florida)
University of Florida chemistry Professor Jeffrey Gower was displeased with how some of his students had performed on an exam he’d given them the previous night.
According to one of the students in his chemistry class, he said the students were “disgusting” for failing the exam and called them “a waste of space.”
The next morning, Gower, an adjunct lecturer, found himself the subject of an official complaint filed by a student through the university’s “Bias Education and Response Team” website. The student who had made the complaint against Gower deemed it “bias” against “ability,” noting “respect goes both ways.”
12. Student denied fraternity membership because he’s wearing political socks (Florida)
At the University of Florida, a student hoping to gain membership to the co-ed Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity wore a pair of socks emblazoned with a photo of their favorite political candidate.
Later, a friend told the student he or she had been denied membership to the group because of their political affiliation. The student believed the socks were the giveaway, allowing fraternity members of opposite political beliefs to turn down his or her membership request.
13. Woman accused of racial bias for suggesting student was trying to sell her a Hewlett-Packard printer (Indiana)
One day in between classes, a student happened upon a woman in the Neal-Marshall library on the Indiana University campus. The student tried to help the woman print a document on one of the Hewlett-Packard printers in the library, telling her there is an HP app she could download to scan and copy documents.
“She was very rude and told me she did not have time to hear ‘my product selling spiel,’” reported the student. “In addition, after I left the conversation alone because I had not tried to sell her a product, I just wanted to show her the app to make her life easier, I go back to my designated computer and hear her speaking about being irritated at someone trying to sell her a product after she has pressed she was busy.”
The student added the woman’s rudeness may have been racially motivated.
“All and all I would like to not have encounters with this woman every time she is here,” the student wrote, saying she was “unprofessional” and saying she was biased against “colored students” at the university. The student noted that the Neal-Marshall library is a particular place where black students like to study.
14. A random comment about LGBT students (Nebraska)
A number of gender non-conforming and LGBTQA+ students were walking together to dinner. According to a bias report, a person walked past them and sneered “ach, genderfluids”
15. Professor compares Kavanaugh hearings to biblical story (Oregon)
In a University of Oregon classroom, a professor discussed a PowerPoint slide that referenced “Potiphar’s Wife,” a Biblical story in which a married woman makes an offer to have sex with one of her husband’s slaves, Joseph, only to have him turn her down. To punish him, Potiphar’s wife then accuses Joseph of rape.
“This is an issue in our society,” the professor allegedly said. “Now that you all know what this phrase means, you can go use it to describe the Kavanaugh trial.”
The class occurred at the same time U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was facing allegations from psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford that he had assaulted her as a teenager.
Using the school’s bias reporting process, a female student reported she was “deeply offended by this professor’s false, ignorant, biased commentary that outwardly projected his political opinions (defending Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh) and completely discredited sexual assault survivors like myself and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, among countless other women.”
“Many students sitting near me were visibly conflicted” by the professor’s statement, wrote the student, “which blatantly insinuated that cases of accused rape and/or sexual assault are really just instances of vengeful women lying about innocent men who denied interest in them.”
16. Woman jokes about sometimes being “schizophrenic” (Portland State)
At Portland State University, a student overheard someone in their classroom making a comment about sometimes feeling like they having schizophrenia.
“She then stated she was not trying to make fun of schizophrenia,” the student reported, “but that sometimes she can be ‘schizophrenic.’ … She stated this in a joking manner and even laughed about it.”
17. A triggering game of hangman (Michigan State)
At Michigan State University, a discarded game of “hangman” was left on a whiteboard in a residence hall; the word “SOUTH” was the last one played. This resulted in a bias response complaint.
18. A jokester triggered by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (North Carolina State)
“Elizabeth Warren claimed she’s a Person of Color yesterday,” read one report to the North Carolina State bias reporting team. “As a self-identifying black transgender woman, I’m triggered. I don’t know what to do when white women start Womansplaining how they gon [sic] be another race that’s different than their white skin. If she can claim she’s a person of color, she can steal my welfare check & Obamaphone,” it read.
The complaint was filed with the public institution right around the same time Warren, a 2020 presidential hopeful for the Democratic Party, released the results of her DNA test that found she is roughly 1/1024 Indian, which is considered far less than the average American.
The tone of the complaint indicates it was likely a joke or an attempt to mock the bias response team.
Read The College Fix’s original bias response stories: