For months, officials at the University of Iowa have been saying that they would launch a Bias Assessment and Response Team this fall. Such teams exist at many other colleges and universities and typically use the acronym BART.
Many advocates for minority students have pushed for the creation of BARTs, and the Black Student Union at Iowa reviewed and approved the idea of starting one.
But on Thursday, the university's chief diversity officer, Georgina Dodge, announced a change of course. The university will not be unveiling a BART at the start of the academic year, she said. Rather, it will respond to criticism of the BARTs elsewhere by creating a model that would not in any way intrude on faculty members' academic freedom.
"We have seen that the ways BARTs are functioning at some other institutions are not effective, and we want to build a better BART," she said.
BARTs differ somewhat from campus to campus, but the one at Ohio State University, which Dodge has said in the past was a model for efforts at Iowa, describes itself this way: "BART receives, monitors, refers and, as necessary, coordinates university responses to hate- and bias-related incidents that impact all or a significant portion of the university community. Incidents may involve bias or hate as a result of age, ancestry, color, disability, gender identity or expression, genetic information, HIV/AIDS status, military status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status."
Asked where she saw problems with a BART, Dodge cited the example of the University of Northern Colorado.
The BART at Northern Colorado became controversial this year after faculty members reported being told how they might change their classroom instruction to avoid offending some students. Many faculty members and others said the BART was effectively policing academic speech...