Online Attack on Smith’s 24/7 Bias-reporting Hotline

Photo Courtesy of Glenn nagel/dreamstime via | Brown University is another school with a bias-reporting hotline.

Photo Courtesy of Glenn nagel/dreamstime via | Brown University is another school with a bias-reporting hotline.

Sunnie Yi Ning ’18
Assistant News Editor

Smith College recently launched a twenty-four-hour, seven-day-a-week telephone hotline and online portal that allow students to anonymously report concerns of bias, discrimination, fraud, harassment and other illegal or concerning behaviors.

In a “letter to the community,” sent out campus-wide on Sept. 21, President Kathleen McCartney announced the launching of this program, and wrote that she wanted to further strengthen “our commitment to ethics and transparency.”

The hotline and online portal are operated by EthicsPoint, a third-party provider that allows students to report anonymously. The service is already being used by institutions such as Amherst College, Tufts University and Brown University. “EthicsPoint supplements our existing reporting options by providing students, staff and faculty with a way to report concerns anonymously about illegal behavior, fraud, discrimination, bias and more,” wrote McCartney.

However, many online news websites have attacked the launching of this program. Some believe that it will be abused by students and further exacerbate tension on campus. Campus Reform points out that the online portal allows anyone, regardless of whether they are actually affiliated with the college, to make a report.

In an interview by Campus Reform, Kira Barrett ’18 expressed her concern of how it might affect free expression on campus. “The notion that students may report their peers for being ‘biased’ and holding different views is chilling,” she remarked, arguing that the process “does not encourage the free expression of ideas” and “may exacerbate the climate of self-censorship.”

Other attacks are blunter, ridiculing the absurdity of such service. The “This $63,914-Per-Year Women’s College Offers A 24/7 Bias Hotline You Can Call for HURT FEELINGS.” The article questions whether running “bias incidents,” on par with legal violations such as fraud, misappropriation of funds and unsafe working conditions is necessary. Bias incidents, according to definitions on Smith’s Code of Conduct, are “unfair, uninvited or unwelcome” verbal or physical conduct, as well as “bigotry, harassment or intimidation.” EthicsPoint allows users to report bias incidents including “slurs, graffiti, written messages or images.”

Legal Insurrection went further and asserted that “Smith College must be a horrible environment for its students. Why else would they need a 24 hour a day, seven-day a week bias reporting hotline?”

Many other blogs took up the issue and argued that such a system would stifle diverse opinions. Jack Marshall, an ethicist who runs the Ethics Alarm blog, commented, “Such schools are devoted to ideological indoctrination, peer intimidation and the persecution of iconoclasts and opponents of partisan orthodoxy.”


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