State senator blasts UNC's 'chilling' Bias Response Team
A Colorado state senator gave University of Northern Colorado (UNC) President Kay Norton a harsh scolding Wednesday in an open letter condemning the school’s Bias Response Team.
“I am both astonished and disappointed by what is happening at my alma mater the University of Northern Colorado,” Sen. John Cooke’s letter began. “It appears UNC leadership has decided that so-called ‘tolerance and diversity’ is justification for intolerance and intimidation.”
[Related: UNC admits it could ‘revisit’ Bias Response Team after national criticism]
Cooke, a Republican and UNC graduate, represents the district that the university is located in. He shared his message with The Complete Coloradoand told his Facebook fans that it pained him to see UNC regulate speech.
“I have been a proud graduate of UNC since 1978, and I’ve had the pleasure of representing my alma mater in the State Senate,” Cooke wrote. “To see UNC fall into the trap of the political correctness industry is heartbreaking.”
“God forbid someone say something offensive,” Cooke wrote, mocking the UNC administration’s attitude toward free speech. “But if someone does, have faith that young adults can handle, discuss, and debate the comment… Instead, you choose to treat them like infants who need the ‘Bias Response Team’ to parachute in to the rescue based on some anonymous complaint.”
Cooke said Norton’s negative reaction when slogans like “Free Speech Matters” and “All Lives Matter” were drawn on posters warning against offensive speech insulted the sacrifice of fallen soldiers.
“To label these words as derogatory, demeaning, and hate speech is unconscionable coming from a person in your position,” Cooke wrote. “I ask you—does Free Speech Matter? Because I think it really does. Generations of men and women have taken a bullet for the First Amendment.”
Cooke called out Norton for defending the posters as a promotion of “inclusive language.”
“That statement is incredulous,” Cooke wrote. “Your own program proves that UNC isn’t interested in inclusive language or conversation. It will tolerate only language UNC leadership and the ‘Bias Response Team’ don’t find offensive.”
Cooke also questioned if Norton agreed that all lives matter, regardless of color or status.
As a judiciary committee member, Cooke took interest in the funding of UNC’s anti-offensive speech campaign. He asked Norton to fully account of the funding of the posters and three new positions called “VP of Community and Climate,” “Equity Officer,” and “Assistant VP for Equity and Inclusion.”
Cooke thought that the trend toward safe speech at UNC was completely backward and un-American.
“The speech we find most offensive is the speech we should protect,” Cooke wrote. “Why? Because the First Amendment is one of the rights that makes America the greatest country on earth.”
Cooke said that if the regulation of free speech at UNC was as bad as it seemed, it could only be worse at the state’s larger institutions. Cooke said that he planned to send his letter and information on Norton’s actions to his senate colleagues.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @RiersonNC