Posted by Julia Leef
On Dec. 5, approximately 24 student and faculty members gathered in the Spa for the open forum sponsored by the Bias Response Group to discuss this semester's bias incidents and possible responses to take against them.
Dean of Students Rochelle Calhoun opened the evening by discussing the origins of the bias incident alert grid, a system of recording bias incidents. The bias incident alert grid was created after a discussion a few years ago regarding what Calhoun described as aggressive bias incidents. Calhoun emphasized that the Bias Incident Response Group, which was formulated as a response to these incidents, does respond to each individual incident, even though these responses are not easily visible.
"We're doing as much as we can as we get the reports," Calhoun said in an earlier interview. "We're having meetings to talk about the community aspects in the residence halls. These things do not lack an effect on the individuals who have been targeted."
The students and faculty in attendance brought up many concerns regarding the incidents, including a feeling of a lack of leadership from the faculty, students brushing off the incidents as inconsequential, students not having the tools to combat the incidents, and moving forward and making changes.
The open forum also offered up reasons as to why these bias incidents may be occurring. Some of the suggestions brought forward included a lack of consequences in a culture of acceptance, the general attitude that bias is only an issue of color, and the issue that people are not actively trying to learn about the issues.
"These are complicated issues. We've been trying to work on issues of diversity and inclusivity for the past few years," President Philip A. Glotzbach said in a separate interview. "I see incivility as a way of marginalizing or excluding a student from a dialogue. I think we need to find ways to talk about these issues constructively as a community."
Members of the community in attendance at the open forum also offered several suggestions to address the bias incidents, such as requiring professors to speak in class about a recent bias incident, including a question in the course evaluations regarding whether or not the professor addressed these bias incidents, and providing immediate training for first-year students, along the same concepts of the Everyday Leadership Training.
Although many suggestions were brought forth during this discussion, several main motifs were faculty involvement, the education of the student, a focus on prevention in addition to a response and defining what exactly a bias incident is and what it means in the greater context of the community.
Perhaps most emphasized in the open forum, as vocalized by Calhoun and Glotzbach, was the need to continue to expand these dialogues, to continue to have the conversations needed to address these issues.