Student affairs to launch new bias reporting system

Mike McKenna, Director of Print

A new initiative out of the Office of Student Affairs hopes to further strengthen the campus community by creating a streamlined system for students to report incidents of hate, bias or discrimination.

According to information provided by Vice President of Student Affairs Lou Stark and Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs Naomi Sigg, the new bias report system (BRS) will be unveiled next semester.

The current plan for the system consists of a single, consistent online form that can be used for all methods of reporting. There will also be phone reporting available. Both anonymous and named reports can be made.

Stark says that administrative response to student concerns of hate, bias, or discrimination have always been coordinated by the office of Student Affairs, so there is no change in that regard. However, he emphasized that this new system fills in the void of students not knowing who they could go to with such concerns.

Allegations of hate, bias, or discrimination will still be referred to the appropriate authorities such as the University Judicial Board or campus police pending on the seriousness of the act.

“The process is not to be a judge, jury and executioner type thing,” Stark emphasized.

According to Stark, the creation of BRS started in March of last year after several consultants suggested that the office implement such a program. He says that it was not in response to any specific campus controversy, including the racist Yik Yak comments posted against members of the #webelonghere movement or last year’s allegations against the former Case Western Reserve University Law School Dean Lawrence Mitchell. However, he does think in the wake of such events, the timing has been crucial.

“I see this as a very important time [for the launch of this program],” Stark said. “We have worked hard to make sure we build a campus community where everyone feels welcome.”

Stark has said that this initiative has been something students, including many members of the #webelonghere movement. Stark collaborated with representatives from the Undergraduate Student Government, LGBT Center, graduate student class and women’s center as well as other student organizations and university offices.

“This brings accountability,” Destinee Henton, president of AfroAm said. “If we have a system in place, this gives us an avenue to combat [bias].”

Sigg has been in charge of implementing the new system, drawing on her experiences and implementing a similar effort during her time at Washington University in St. Louis. She emphasized the difference that students can make by using the system when it launches. According to both her and Stark, the launch of BRS will feature a large publicity effort.

“I talk a lot about students using their voice,” Sigg said. “Sometimes in these incidents where you report, you might be part of a longer trend we look at or [your report] might be part of something which directly makes something change.”