Freedom of Speech: An Alternate Perspective on Bias-Related Incidents

The idea that, as students at the 5C’s, we are protected from mental warfare is, in some senses, an incredibly comforting one. Every time someone wants to do something derogatory, he or she must consider the fact that this action could be labeled a “bias-related incident,” and that people will make an effort to seek out the perpetrator and portray him or her as the instigator of such an incident, and of course dole out an appropriate punishment. In addition to this being an honorable notion for the college authorities to pursue, it’s a relatively ambitious one, mostly due to the abstract nature of the phrase “bias-related incident.” If an incident becomes bias-related mostly based upon the feelings of the person toward whom the act was directed, Pandora’s box will explode with the fury of subjectivity. While the policy undoubtedly provides consolation for the student body, it inhibits freedom of speech—perhaps even thought—and denies students of one lesson of reality: sometimes people are going to say things that make you feel bad. The nice police do not patrol most parts of the world—in fact, based on the experiences I’ve managed to amass, things generally get less tasteful from here on out. Being able to call campus security to report a bias-related incident whenever one feels discriminated against undermines the resilience that is necessary to be an individual that displays and propagates his or her own beliefs.

I agree that if one’s ability to move forward in life is being psychologically impeded, intervention is necessary. But if some random person calls you a mean name, just acknowledge that what he or she has said has zero intrinsic value. Accepting and integrating that idea into how you address the world has the potential to solve many problems, and maybe even save you a phone call that will just cost you half an hour of sleep. My advice is to try to ignore it, and get some sleep.