Boston University has been harshly criticized for violating its own free speech policies due to its mandatory Title IX training, which forces staff and faculty to decide how to confront societal "microaggressions," The Washington Free Beacon reported on Tuesday.
Faculty who did not complete the training by giving the answers demanded would "not be eligible for merit-based salary increases," the school said in an email, with additional penalties possible for "continued non-compliance." Students who did not complete the training with the answers demanded would "be blocked from registering next semester," according to the university's website.
The training includes several scenarios that include "bystander intervention," meaning that onlookers must prevent potential harassment by inserting themselves into potentially inappropriate encounters.
In one example in the training, an Asian woman (Kim) is told (by Jessica) that her white husband is "good-looking" and that "half-Asian babies are the cutest."
Students and faculty were then asked, "What should you do?" and forced to select "Intervene" to complete the training. The answer "Say nothing. Jessica is giving Kim a compliment, and, besides, Kim was smiling," were deemed inaccurate.
The training explains that even though the woman "smiled" at the compliment, she still "might have felt uncomfortable" about comments relating to "her race, her husband's appearance, or the prospect of having children" itself.
Aaron Terr of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) slammed the policy, telling The Washington Free Beacon that "BU makes clear commitments to free expression and academic freedom, and that includes the right to be free from compelled speech."
However, Terr said that to complete the training, students and faculty "must select the university’s preferred answers as their own, which is compelled speech and has no place at a university that promises its faculty expressive freedom."
Terr said it goes way beyond what the law requires.
He said that giving faculty and students a straightforward test on their legal obligations does not violate academic freedom, but the BU training, which forces "them to express agreement with particular viewpoints," does.
The training even implies that telling someone to stop checking their phone could be illegal discrimination or harassment. One question asks about the "best path forward" when a classmate "keeps checking their phone" while working on a group project.
The "right" answer involves giving the classmate "the benefit of the doubt"; the wrong one involves telling them to "stop checking your phone — that's rude."
The training explains that "microaggressions" are more damaging to "employee well-being" than "overt harassment." Even "well-meaning people can still cause harm," one module says. "It's important to separate someone's intention from the impact of their actions."
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