In 2019, Chlöe Swarbrick, then a 25-year-old member of New Zealand’s Parliament, ignited a global whirlwind when she gave a two-word rejoinder to a senior lawmaker who had dared interrupt her diatribe on climate change.
“OK boomer,” she said, barely pausing in her remarks.
Later, when asked about the comment, Swarbrick replied, “Boomer is a state of mind.”
“I think you can see from the way that that meme has evolved that it is symbolic of the collective frustration that young people in particular feel to placing evidence in fact time after time in the debate and in the argument and being met with dogma.”
Yet around the same time of Swarbrick’s insult, a University of Central Florida student was investigated by the school’s Bias Response Team for using the term “boomers” in a social media post, according to the College Fix.
The Fix reported on the incident on Tuesday after receiving records about the unit’s activities. The team is known as the Just Knights Response Team.
The unidentified student was criticized for using an “ageist slur” in his or her comments.
“This is clearly a violation of the student code of conduct and should not be tolerated by the university any more than calling someone a racial slur,” the complaint against the student said. “Discrimination by age is clearly protected by federal law as well as your golden rule guidelines.”
The Fix reported that the activity by the Just Knights Response Team, or JKRT, was one of more than a dozen complaints the website reviewed after a public records request.
The conservative website noted it took an interest in these cases at UCF after a judge questioned the constitutionality of the response team.
The Fix noted that the complaints to UCF’s team included “students who were reported for using the n-word and a student reported for not using preferred gender pronouns.”
Yet just last week, a federal appeals court overturned UCF’s “discriminatory harassment” policy, The Fix reported, saying the speech code was “an overbroad and content-and viewpoint-based regulation of constitutionally protected expression.”
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the university’s bias response team itself was an affront to constitutionally protected speech.
“No reasonable college student wants to run the risk of being accused of ‘offensive,’ ‘hostile,’ ‘negative,’ or ‘harmful’ conduct—let alone ‘hate or bias,’” Judge Kevin Newsom wrote in the court’s opinion. “Nor would the average college student want to run the risk that the University will ‘track’ her, ‘monitor’ her, or mount a ‘comprehensive response’ against her.”
Newsom added, “A government actor can objectively chill speech – through its implementation of a policy – even without formally sanctioning it.”
“Pair that broad, vague, and accusatory language with the task-force-ish name of the investigating organization—the Just Knights Response Team—and we think it clear that the average college student would be intimidated, and quite possibly silenced, by the policy,” the judge noted in the opinion.
According to The Fix, the JKRT defines a “bias act” as any action that “may contribute to creating an unsafe, negative, unwelcoming environment [for] the victim, or anyone who shares the same social identity as the victim, and/or community members of the university.”
The Fix reported that other complaints at UCF that it reviewed included a pair of international students using the N-word, a student suggesting that he did not want a gay roommate, another student reported for “accidentally” using the wrong pronouns for an LGBT student, and a minority student who complained after a banana was left on her car.
The incident involving the “boomer” remark was not further explained.
But UCF said it was reviewing the court ruling, and was committed to free speech.
“We wholeheartedly agree universities should be a place for civil discourse and the free exchange of ideas,” a UCF spokesman told The Fix.
“We remain fully committed to encouraging differing viewpoints, free speech, and free expression – and we recommit to ensuring our policies are consistent with those ideals. The university continues to work to ensure the related policies are reviewed and are consistent with our commitment.”