U. of Wisconsin Hosts Bias Response Symposium Addressing ‘Straight White College Men’

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 26: Black Lives Matter protesters march through downtown Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The convention officially began on Monday and is expected to attract thousands of protesters, members of the media and Democratic delegates to the City of …
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The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse recently hosted a “Hate/Bias Response Symposium,” which included several sessions, such as “Fat is a Social Justice Issue, Too,” “Navigating Masculinity Through Trans Identity,” as well as one session focused on “Challenging Straight White College Men” to be social justice warriors.

The two-day event was hosted at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-La Crosse) on Tuesday and Wednesday, and was focused on “hate/bias prevention, response, and healing” surrounding “a social justice framework” in order to “facilitate and sustain educational/organizational systems that are more safe, equitable and just,” according to the school’s website.

The website also noted that the symposium objectives included examining how to “explore trends and best practices for hate/bias prevention, response, and healing centered engagement,” as well as “disrupt institutional systems, climates, and cultures that support any manifestation of hate/bias.”

Some of the sessions included the following:

  • Analysis of Classroom Hate and Bias Report Data to Support Anti-Racist, Anti-Sexist Teaching
  • Did They Really Just Say That?! Being an Active Bystander
  • Fat is a Social Justice Issue, Too
  • Got Solidarity? Challenging Straight White College Men to Advocate for Social Justice
  • Latinx Equity in Higher Education: Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Conundrums
  • Navigating Masculinity Through Trans Identity
  • Teaching Of Islam
  • The First Amendment, Free Speech, and Hate Speech

“Despite the fact that fatphobia in the United States has always been intimately connected to other systems of oppression like sexism, racism, and classism, those of us who are otherwise engaged in social justice work so often exclude it from our research and our activism,” reads the description for “Fat is a Social Justice Issue, Too,” which was led by professor Laurie Cooper Stoll.

As for the “Challenging Straight White College Men” session, it was led by professor Jörg Vianden, who wrote a book about “how 92 straight white college men around the country experience campus and community diversity issues.”

“I discuss their upbringing in families and schools, their perspectives on privilege and oppression, and their attempts to challenge oppression,” said Vianden in the session description. “Given our current American predicament, the book makes a timely contribution to our understanding of masculinity and how white disengagements hinders progress toward a just society.”

Moreover, “Navigating Masculinity Through Trans Identity” — led by University of Wisconsin-Platteville professor Kayden Carpentier — was focused on “the regulation of gender, specifically expectations regarding masculinity, through a narrative of transmasculine identity.”

“This narrative will include examples of gender bias and how this bias evolves over the course of transitioning from female to male,” adds the description. “The regulation of masculinity will be explored via group activity along with potential consequences when healthy masculinity is not reinforced.”

In partnership with “We Are Many United-Against Hate,” the symposium was hosted by the school’s “Research & Resource Center for Campus Climate,” as well as the “UWL Hate Response Team.”

The UW-La Crosse Hate Response Team appears to be the school’s Bias Response Team, which is a department that allows for students to report instances of “hate” or “bias” experienced on campus.

The concept of a “Bias Response Team” is not isolated to one or even a few schools, but have become a popular feature of campuses and universities around the country.

Not everyone agrees, however, as some are challenging Bias Response Teams, as many believe that such departments have proven themselves to be nothing more than a campus system that has effectively allowed mostly leftist students to air their grievances about so-called microaggressions and bias they experienced or overhead on campus.

In October, the University of Michigan announced that it was shutting down its Bias Response Team.

Last month, a legal activist group that defends First Amendment rights filed a lawsuit against the University of Illinois, alleging that the school’s “bias response” reporting system forces students to “self-censor.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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