The recent Beta Bridge incident has provoked some discussion within the University community. In the following, I want to respond to the objections raised against the filing of the bias report.
First, the bias reporting website shows that the University acknowledges the fact that some biased-motivated acts "may be constitutionally protected speech." Thus, to suggest that if an act is protected under First Amendment rights it cannot also be bias-motivated misunderstands the purpose of bias-reporting.
Secondly, there seems to be an unstated presupposition among some students that only racially or religiously inspired actions are to be understood as biased. Once again, the definition adopted by the University makes this matter as clear as daylight. Bias, in University speak, covers any action that "targets a University of Virginia student because of that student's race, age, color, disability, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, or veteran status."
Third, it follows from the above definition that a statement can be political and still be biased. Thus, the opinion that the destruction of the original message was a political act and consequently cannot be an act of bias is another error that needs to be corrected.
In sum, it seems to me that Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine has good grounds to file a bias report. The administration should pursue the matter as such rather than regarding the destruction of the group's message as a "quid pro quo" incident. The two acts at issue are not similar in kind, save for the simple fact that one - the writing - has been claimed and the other - the destruction - remains unclaimed.
Additionally, in one case we have an aggrieved party whereas in the other there is no one claiming any unfair treatment. Although some might feel that SPJP has no legitimate claim to feeling threatened, harassed or intimidated - even though SPJP must remain the best judge of that - it cannot be said that the incident is uninterpretable as a biased act.
Omer Shaukat\n GSAS