Protect The 1st recently reported on a Stanford student who was being investigated for reading Mein Kampf while on campus. Stanford became aware of the situation through its Protected Identity Harm reporting system, a portal for students to report instances of harm done to their person. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has called the system “Orwellian,” arguing that it is used to “pressure students to confess, ‘take accountability,’ and promise to ‘change…’”
Now, a group of professors at Stanford is speaking out, calling for an end to the anonymous reporting system that they say threatens free speech on campus. Although the system has been in place since the summer of 2021, faculty members at the university say they did not know of its existence until the Mein Kampf incident occurred and sparked widespread student outrage.
Russell Berman, a professor of comparative literature, said the system “reminds me of McCarthyism.” Yet the university has said the system is designed to help students get along with one another.
Across the country, about half of all colleges and universities have similar reporting systems. At Stanford, students can report any incident where an individual or group was harmed on the basis of characteristics including race or sexual orientation. These reports trigger an inquiry within 48 hours. While participating in the inquiries are voluntary for students who are targets of a complaint, Juan Santiago, a professor of mechanical engineering, has argued it may not feel that way. He says, “If you’re an 18-year-old freshman and you get contacted by an administrator and told you’ve been accused of some transgression, what are you going to do?”
So far, 77 Stanford faculty members have signed a petition requesting the school investigate free speech and academic freedom on campus and calling for the university to abolish the anonymous reporting system. Protect The 1st applauds these petitioners’ efforts to abolish this Orwellian system.