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Student files bias complaint after dry-erase message fails to refer to MLK as ‘doctor’

Complaint lodged with Ohio State’s Bias Assessment and Response Team 

In January 2019, a student walked into the lobby of the Busch House dormitory on the Ohio State University campus and saw a dry-erase board decorated to honor Dr. Martin Luther King.

But the student, who is black, was not satisfied with how the board was decorated.

“I simply stated that the board could be better, and I expected more,” the student reported, saying a dorm office assistant then began to speak to him in a “hostile tone.”

“He began to repeat that I should be grateful that he (Dr. King) had a dream for me [and] to be grateful for his (Dr. King) name at least being on the board,” wrote the student in a complaint filed with the Ohio State Bias Assessment and Response Team.

“I responded that the board did not even properly address Dr. King because it did not include the prefix doctor,” wrote the student, adding that “it could have at least included a quote or something to acknowledge King’s importance as the first Black man to have a national holiday named after him.”

“I was offended by the board’s minor attempt to honor one of my community’s national heroes,” wrote the student, adding that the comment “have a nice day off” written on the board was inappropriate.

This is just one of the 135 reports filed with Ohio State’s Bias Assessment and Response Team between August 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019 that were obtained by The College Fix through an open records law request. The identities of the individuals filing the reports have been redacted by the university to protect their anonymity.

Other complaints included: an elderly, white chemistry professor accidentally mixed up two Asian students when handing back student ID cards after an exam; a student reported that they were called a “fatass”; students were upset a white lecturer implied that Uganda is a dangerous country; and an Instagram post during Halloween of students dressed in a poncho, piñata and candy.

The reports were obtained as The Fix continues to investigate the types of complaints that are lodged through bias response teams at college campuses across the nation. Nearly two dozen universities have been included in the investigation so far since it launched in 2019.

At Ohio State, the BART system is run by its Office of Institutional Equity. According to the school’s website, the system exists “to help the Ohio State community prevent and respond to all forms of harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct.”

“These commitments are both a moral imperative consistent with an intellectual community that celebrates individual differences and diversity, as well as a matter of law,” states the website, which allows anonymous students and professors to report one another for “bias” or other speech infractions.

A spokesman for Ohio State did not return an e-mail seeking comment for this story.

In one instance, a professor was reported for using the term “Berdache,” which typically refers to a Native American male who assumes a female gender identity, on a final exam. The professor acknowledged the term was derogatory, even though she continued to use it and it was used in the class textbook.

“The term is inaccurate in its description of Native people, which also made the exam questions very confusing as well as offensive,” wrote the student, adding, “the questions were true or false questions asking if ‘berdache men’ were castrated, and if sex between two berdache men would be viewed as homosexual by the Lakota tribe.”

“These were very inappropriate questions in the way they discussed two spirit bodies and gender identity, this is the same as asking a transgender person about their bodies,” complained the student.

Other complaints filed with the university include:

· Two male roommates grew “concerned” over the sexual orientation of a third roommate after they found a vibrator in their shower. The two men talked to an RA, who filed a report. The roommates said they were not homophobic, but viewed living with a homosexual “the same as living with a girl.” They both said they checked the “not interested in having an LGBTQ roommate” box on their housing forms, and were concerned if their gay roommate was lying about this, he may be lying about other things.

· An undergraduate student complained about a painting outside the school’s Computer Science and Engineering advising office that featured depictions of a Creole kitchen in which the black characters have “exaggerated” features.

“Considering that the CSE department has a very low black population among faculty and students it’s disturbing that this photo would even be introduced into the environment,” the student complained, adding, “The people in the painting have exaggerated lips and bodies of stereotypical middle aged, southern black/Creole people.”

· A male professor was reported for a joke about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that landed badly.

“He said that we should’ve all had door alarms for when Brett Kavanaugh tries to sneak into our room to sexually assault someone,” a student complained. “I guess the joke was we wouldn’t get raped with door alarms, but it didn’t really come off like a joke.”

“This made everyone in the room especially the ladies REALLY uncomfortable,” reported the student. “The teacher seemed angry that no one laughed at his ‘joke’ and moved on.”

· A student approached two RAs and told them he often had trouble telling them apart because of their similar ethnic heritage. The RAs declined to submit a report, but another staff member who heard the story filed one on their behalf.

· While visiting a men’s room at the Busch dorm, a student was upset to find a sticker that was “clearly appropriating my culture.”

“To say I am hurt is an understatement,” the student complained. “I do not feel comfortable walking around this dorm with this sort of bias being posted on the mirrors of the place I call home. This needs action immediately for me to feel safe.”

· After seeing an Instagram post of one student dressed in a poncho, one student dressed as a piñata, and one dressed as candy, a student complained of the “racist” Halloween costumes. The caption read “3 Amigos! Minus Ayda!”

“A number of people commented and showed no discomfort however this is stupid and racist,” complained the student. “Sorority and Fraternity life should be involved and will be receiving an email from me soon.”

· In October 2018, two assistant hall directors met to discuss some business, and the topic turned to what each director would be doing during fall break. One director asked another if he would be going back to Texas for the break and whether he would be eating tacos during the trip. The advisor pronounced “Texas” as “Tejas.”

“There was no reason to bring up tacos,” wrote the staff member who made the complaint. When asked why he would mention tacos, the director said, “I don’t know, just asking.”

The director to whom the question was asked said “Well, I don’t necessarily eat that food/there is other food that I eat.”

The staff member then filed a complaint with the Bias Response Team and discussed the taco comment with the university’s residence hall director.

· On November 10, 2018, a blond female student who appeared “severely intoxicated” walked by Park-Stradley Hall, stopped by a window, pointed at the person inside, and yelled “fatass.”

“I hope this report serves as a motivator for the department to start taking weight based bias as a serious issue,” complained a student. “Body shaming happens on campus all of the time, and it has little to no policy coverage or resources available,” wrote the student, adding, “there is also no training or student targetted [sic] measures for creating buzz around body positivity.”

· Trash talk during a flag football game became heated when one team called their opponents “a bunch of fucking faggots.” The team was penalized with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the game was ended. The Intramural Sports staff then returned to the office to review the team’s roster to determine who made the comments.

· While in a dorm common room, a male student asked another male student, “did you see the hot girl with the fat ass?” The friend responded, “She wasn’t hot, just a big ass.” A student who overheard the conversation reported them, saying the female student in question said male students had been leering at her while walking in the halls.

· A physics professor created a problem for students in which a hypothetical student jumps off Lincoln Tower on campus. The professor then joked about the suicide prevention signs in a campus garage, saying, “I don’t know if they have them in Lincoln Tower” while laughing.

“I was very uncomfortable in this situation and I do not think this is acceptable behavior in a classroom,” complained a student. “This is horrible behavior and this comes quite soon after the recent suicides which have taken place at this university,” wrote the student, adding, “It is not fair for students who are struggling with their mental health to have this joke be made.”

· A substitute lecturer told a class about a Second-Year Transformational Experience Program (STEP) Expo she had attended the previous day where an individual was presenting on their trip to Uganda. The lecturer said to the class, “I wondered why would anyone want to go to Uganda?”

The lecturer then said, after the individual’s presentation, she had been convinced that a trip to Uganda might be nice.

“But the good thing about STEP is that you can go to dangerous places like Uganda and be ensured that you are safe because you are going with other kids from OSU,” the lecturer allegedly said.

“The cohort laughed after she said this,” complained a student.

The student later confronted the lecturer, “hoping she would understand how harmful that statement is in perpetuating harmful narratives about other countries.” The white lecturer “invalidated my experiences,” according to the student, who said these microaggressions reinforced “the lack of safety/comfort I felt as a person of color in that space.”

· Doctoral candidate Jonathan Branfman filed a complaint over “harassing e-mails” he received after a number of “right-wing blogs” and “white supremacist websites” reported on a new course he was developing that was critical of “white heterosexual masculinity.”

[In January 2018, The College Fix ran a story about Branfman’s course, called “Be a Man! Masculinities, Race and Nation,” which, according to the syllabus, aimed to explore how ideas about masculinity “simultaneously harm yet privilege” men.]

· A resident advisor returned to Bradley hall to find the words “stop fucking piñatas” written on a whiteboard.

· A male student was reported for making “verbal sexual comments,” including mentioning that he wanted to go buy condoms.

· In April 2019, a male student was approached at a campus gym by another male student who mistook the student for female. The student began verbally harassing the student he thought was female to the point where the altercation was about to become physical. The victim then informed the student that he was, in fact, male, and the aggressive student left saying he was not gay.

· Two individuals were sitting on a bench outside of Whit’s Frozen Custard on High Street when a bus full of schoolchildren drove by. A student on the bus yelled “gay!” as the bus pulled away. One of the individuals on the bench is a member of the LGBT community.

MORE: Ohio State University to offer new ‘diversity’ certificate

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About the Author
Senior Reporter
Christian focuses on investigative, enterprise and analysis reporting. He is the author of "1916: The Blog" and has spent time as a political columnist at USA Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and National Review Online. His op-eds have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, City Journal, Weekly Standard and National Review. He has also been a frequent guest on political television and radio shows. He holds a master’s degree in political science from Marquette University and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.