Although the University of Arizona is reconsidering the creation of Social Justice Advocate jobs on campus, they will still have to account for the decision to create the positions. On Monday, the Goldwater Institute sent a public records request for all documents related to the new positions, including how the positions are funded and what guidelines are in place for policing speech.
The University of Arizona’s “social justice advocate” job responsibilities include reporting “bias incidents or claims to appropriate Residence Life staff.” The snitch jobs caused a stir and considerable embarrassment for the University.
The Goldwater Institute believes that the incident and response “highlight the need for a campus free speech policy that does not draw distinctions based on viewpoint and provides robust due process protections for students who are accused of violating campus speech policies.”
“Bias response teams like those proposed by the University of Arizona create a culture of suspicion and cause frivolous investigations, not to mention interference with free speech on campus,” said Jonathan Butcher, education policy director at the Goldwater Institute.
Bias response teams allow students to file a report when they feel they have observed bias in political or social issues. Some schools around the country allow such reporting to be done anonymously, with school officials investigating the accused and issuing warnings or reprimands.
Earlier this year, the Goldwater Institute released a model bill that nullifies existing campus speech codes—like the one University of Arizona social justice advocates will enforce—that elevate “confronting diversely insensitive behavior” ahead of protecting free expression. The model bill also requires that anyone who is part of the campus community to be allowed to speak on any issue, so long as they do not violate the ability of others to do the same. Already more than half a dozen state legislatures have taken up the model bill, and the Goldwater Institute has begun work to enact the model legislation in Arizona next session.
“Encouraging diverse viewpoints is at the core of our model bill—paying students to report bias incidents does just the opposite by chilling free expression that might cross the imaginary line between heated debate and micro-aggression,” explained Jim Manley, senior attorney at the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation. “The concept of ‘social justice advocates’ would stifle free expression in the name of protecting hurt feelings.”
Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe, who has fought for all students’ free speech stated, “During the recent state budget meetings, numerous legislators expressed grave concerns with the university’s social programs, and incidents that were reported nationally in the news, that had occurred this year where Arizona student’s political, religious and free speech rights had been violated. And just as concerning, it appears that these liberal instructors were not reprimanded for their poor judgement and inappropriate behavior towards their students. Legislators have suggested that the only way to address bad behavior on the part of instructors, and the administration’s misguided social justice and diversity programs, is by cutting some of the Arizona taxpayer funding, which exceeds $700 million annually. Parents, students and taxpayers are willing to fund quality higher education, not liberal bias and misguided Soviet-style social reprogramming.”