University launches online bias incident log

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - 5:28pm

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Emma Richter/Daily

 

The University of Michigan launched an online bias response log this week amid student requests for more administrative transparency regarding bias incidents. The log details all bias incidents reported to, and actions taken by, the Bias Response team since July 1.

The Bias Response Team, part of the larger Division of Student Life, works to maintain an inclusive campus environment for all students and support those who may have been impacted by such bias incidents. As noted in the log, the team of professional staff members also refers victims to appropriate University resources as needed.

In a statement provided by the Office of Public Affairs, Nicole Banks, assistant dean of students, emphasized the level of professionalism possessed by those on the Bias Response Team.

“This team of skilled professionals represent many aspects of the University community and work to coordinate a comprehensive response to each individual incident,” Banks said.

Within the same statement, Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones noted administration members worked deliberately with students and faculty to ensure the log is sensitive to the needs of those who have been affected by bias incidents.

“We worked carefully with students and professional staff to create a bias incident log that shares information publicly while maintaining privacy for the affected students and other members of our community,” Blake Jones said.

Blake Jones further explained the details of the log — ranging from the date of the bias incident to a full summary of responsive action taken — will be updated weekly. However, as bias incidents are oftentimes reported in a general manner to preserve the privacy of the victim, limited information may be available in certain cases.

The launch of this log comes in the wake of many acts of hate towards communities of color and other marginalized groups over the past year. Most recently, racist flyers encouraging students to “Make America White Again” were found outside Stockwell Residence Hall last week.

Despite administrative response, Black students and their allies continue to express their disappointment with the administration for not being more aggressive in dealing with bias incidents.

In an email interview, LSA senior Jamie Thompson, co-founder of Students4Justice, said she began her work advocating for students of color and other marginalized identities after the first wave of Alt-right posters were found on campus last September. Thompson said President Schlissel waited three days and two protests before sending an email acknowledging the bias incident— an action, she said, that made the University appear to not care about the safety and well-being of all students.

Thompson questioned why students do not recieve "crime alerts" after bias incidents, as they would with any other crime occuring on campus.

"When other crimes occur on campus, the campus community receives "Crime Alert" emails, saying in detail what occurred, where it occurred, and to be cautious," she said. "Hate crimes and bias crimes seem to fall into a different category-- Why don't we get crime alerts regarding hate crimes that occur both on and off campus?"

Furthermore, Thompson said she believes the creation of the log is not an adequate response to the initial demands Students4Justice made to the administration last year. She emphasized although the log highlights the investigation of hate crimes, she does not believe it symbolizes greater transparency between students and the University regarding bias incidents.

"I think that the creation of this log is just the beginning-- as for what students have been asking for and the demands Students4Justice put out a year ago-- this misses the mark, greatly," she said. "University "response" to these crimes means two things: the investigative response-- what is being done by police, campus police, administration, and other departments of interests. The second response is more symbolic: what messages is the university sending, literally and figuratively? I think that transparency between students and administration begins immediately once an incident occurs: are they willing to do whatever necessary to keep marginalized students safe on this campus? And to answer that-- I would say no. It's much too late."

In an earlier interview with The Daily, LSA sophomore Kaitlyn Brown said she thinks the University needs to emphasize strict consequences for perpetrators of such incidents.

“They need to be more proactive,” she said. “Just sending an email doesn’t give the people who do this consequences, so I feel like there needs to be a form of consequence and some kind of way that the University comes out and strictly says, ‘We do not condone this and if you do this then there will be consequences.’ ”

University President Mark Schlissel, in a previous Daily interview, expressed hope this log will aid students in understanding the multitude of actions the University takes to combat bias incidents, from both a personal and campus-wide perspective. He emphasized the University is not trying to hide such incidents when they occur, as it would not be productive.

“I think one thing we are doing is trying to be more rapidly transparent about episodes that occur, so that everyone in the community knows where to look when they hear a rumor about something,” he said. “We’re putting up a website that gives basically a running summary of the events that happened, and the results of any investigations and practical things. I think that will at least help people know what’s going on.”