Recently, the form for students to report incidents of bias was removed from the Boston College website. It was replaced by a message that said that the form is undergoing further review in light of comments from faculty. Dean of Students Thomas Mogan said that the form and policy raised questions of academic freedom. Another contribution to the removal of the form was that many of the submissions were not things that could be acted upon due to the anonymous nature of the form. And, because the form was anonymous, there was no way to tell if submissions were actually by BC students.
Now, faculty members and students will work together to review the form, though there is no set deadline for the form to be reinstated onto the website.
The premise of the form was flawed from the beginning—the anonymous style makes it easy for people to abuse the site. Despite the good intentions of those who began the form, its original form made it prone to inappropriate commentary. Those reviewing the form need to consider whether making the form anonymous is worth it, in light of submissions that cannot be seriously considered.
The administration initially worked hard to publicize the form. The same transparency ought to be afforded the process to review the form. Students will be using the form, so they should see why and how it is being reviewed. Input from the community could be helpful to change the form, as well—though some students are involved, a reporting form that will affect campus climate ought to have as much input as possible.
The broader question remains how to address the ambiguity (and trade-off) in discouraging bias while promoting diversity of thought. Anonymous reporting, by its very nature, does not necessitate conversation, and while addressing systemic racism is important, an online form—used predominantly for data collection rather than intervention—threatens to disengage all parties. Changing a culture for the better must go beyond simple reporting of problems. We should look to engage the community in open forums rather than relying on the wisdom of the select few given access to this data, and put the University into conversation rather than pursue the casual policing of thought.
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