Starting next month, incoming students at Oregon State University will be subject to "social justice" online training, even though the school has not yet even defined what the term means, The College Fix reported. The pilot program starts in September for the fall term and will be fully rolled out in January in time for the winter.
The program "is intended to provide all students entering Oregon State University an orientation to concepts of diversity, inclusion, and social justice and help empower all OSU students to contribute to an inclusive university community," according to feedback from a February 2016 townhall. The document also lays out the proposed online module, made up of five courses which include:
- A module on the "context and history for social justice efforts in Oregon and at OSU," which seeks to remind students "that systemic and local inequities exist, and that we all play a role in creating an OSU community that resists and corrects injustice."
- A module on "establishing expectations for an inclusive and equitable university community," which will "apply an understanding of inclusion, equity, and social justice to everyday situations to advance the values of the OSU community."
A module on "resources available to students to amplify their learning and incorporate the pursuit of social justice within their university experiences," which encourages students to "get involved outside of class to create an inclusive OSU community," and makes mention of "bias incidents."
OSU is not the only school to have a Bias Response Team to monitor behaviors and words around campus. These BRTs have caused concern among free speech advocates, including The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and Robby Soave of Reason, who pointed out OSU's BRT investigated a pro-Trump sidewalk chalk message. Soave called the online course "ideological by its very nature," and said students "are being trained — not taught, but trained — to think everything that offends them is a bias incident."
Despite these well-founded concerns, Angela Batista, Oregon State University’s interim Chief Diversity Officer, claimed otherwise in a response to The College Fix:
The goal of our bias incident response isn’t to stop or prevent anyone from exercising their right to engage in free speech within social media channels or elsewhere. Instead, we seek to educate community members about the harmful impacts of bias incidents, and to provide care and support to community members who may be hurt or negatively affected. It’s not about avoiding hard conversations or difficult ideas, but promoting and creating a safe and inclusive community where everyone has the ability to fully participate in these conversations.
While BRTs are becoming a frightening trend on college campuses, so are diversity requirements. Students at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst have to fulfill a diversity requirement and University of Wisconsin-Madison has mandated "cultural competency" training.