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Student files bias complaint over university’s ‘Peanut Day’ event

University of Northern Iowa incident one of 38 reports filed with bias response team

Back in April, a University of Northern Iowa student — who is not even allergic to peanuts — filed a bias complaint with school officials over a campus event celebrating peanuts.

It was one of 38 complaints filed with the UNI Campus Climate Response Team during the 2018-19 school year. The reports were recently obtained by The College Fix through a public records act request, and the names of the individuals involved were redacted by the university to protect their identities.

Other complaints included an increased police presence at a rap concert, a student who was upset they were directed to the international line because of their accent, and a complaint that a campus book group called White Fragility was entirely made up of white women.

As for the springtime peanut complaint, it stemmed from an event situated around a table at Rialto Dining Hall where students could learn all about peanuts.

They were treated to samples of a variety of peanut products, from ice cream sprinkles to pad thai noodles. Students were able to purchase blue shirts adorned with the words “PEANUT ENVY.” (According to the dining hall’s Facebook page, wearing one of these shirts would make one “the envy of everyone on campus! [winky face emoji]

But not everyone was amused with such a bold celebration of America’s most cherished legume.

The day the event was held, a UNI student contacted the school’s Climate Response Team to file a complaint, saying peanut allergies are a “huge concern” for some students at the school.

“Peanut allergies can be life threatening to some,” wrote the student, adding, “and even when the day is over their [sic] is still risk the air and other surfaces will still be contaminated.”

“I saw this being advertised through the UNI dining page on twitter, and thought it was a joke at first,” wrote the student, noting that the dining hall had warned students with peanut allergies they should probably eat elsewhere that day.

“This is purely targetting [sic] students with that allergy,” wrote the student. “While not all allergies can be 100 percent avoided when eating in the dining center, this event was completely unnecessary” he or she added, noting that the dining hall’s air conditioning system was connected with other campus buildings and thus the contamination could be widespread.

“While do not have peanut allergies myself I would be extremely concerned for any student who may not have seen the notifications and went to Rialto to eat on Thursday,” wrote the student. “I seriously question UNI dining in regards to inclusion and students’ well being.”

According to the Northern Iowa website, a “bias/climate related incident” is “any physically or verbally harmful act that is motivated by (or appears to be motivated by, in whole or in part) any of the following factors: race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.”

Students are encouraged to file a report if they have “experienced, witnessed, or learned of a bias/climate related incident.” Campus community members may report anonymously if they wish, and they are told their report “may or may not result in criminal or university action, depending on the type of incident and the victim’s willingness to take further action.”

A university spokesperson did not respond to a request by The College Fix to comment.

Other incidents during the 2018-19 school year that provoked reports included:

· A student complained that UNI police felt it necessary to increase security when rapper Waka Flocka Flame performed on campus. The student believes it is discriminatory that security is only increased for shows in which the artist is black, as police assume “rap music incites violence.”

The student noted that it would be nearly entirely white students attending the show.

· In September, a Women and Gender Studies professor compared the example of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who claimed she was black and “transracial,” to being transgender. The transgender male student filing the complaint against the professor wrote that this comment was “dismissive and biased.”

The student also complained that at one point, the professor broke the class up into males and females and included him in the female section.

· A student complained that a campus book group called White Fragility was entirely made up of white women.

· A transgender student was sent a package addressed to their “dead” name, even though the student’s preferred name is listed with the university everywhere except their identification card. The report does not make it clear who sent the package.

“This event impacted me negatively because seeing my dead name when I am well known on campus and in the public eye as my preferred name is very de-validating to me,” wrote the student.

· The campus Muslim Student Association issued a complaint that their Meditation Room was not available on Homecoming 2018 weekend. According to the school, the reservation “was not recorded properly as a result of human error.”

· A student doing a “design pitch” took a provocative photo of a model holding a pride flag, stepping on a transgender flag, and wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat. The model was wearing pins with the pronouns “THEY” and “HE.” The title of the project was “The New Conservative.”

A student who saw the photo filed a complaint, calling the picture “very upsetting.”

“Many beliefs held by Trump and his supporters are anti-Trans and even violent towards the Trans community,” wrote the student, who argued that the photo may be seen in public and people need to “understand the danger of it.”

· A student was upset that when they called the campus financial aid hotline, they were directed to the international student line because of their accent. The person manning the hotline never asked if the student was international.

· A parent complained that the UNI Sparkles, a cheerleading team made up of children with disabilities, would no longer be able to perform in between sets at the school’s volleyball games. According to the athletic department, the time between sets had been shortened and there was a concern the kids wouldn’t be able to get on and off the court in time.

· When a student in a campus library walked sought help from a student worker at a help desk, the worker stood, rolled her eyes, and muttered “lynch me” under her breath. When later questioned by the professor who filed the report, the student worker claimed she merely said “screw me.”

“This has upset me very deeply,” wrote the professor. “I believe all students have a right to a safe, secure environment to learn and receive assistance. It truly makes me sick in the pit of my stomach to believe that anyone might not feel welcome or in fact threatened trying to receive help.”

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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.