Number of bias-related incidents declines at Syracuse University
Number of bias-related incidentsdeclines at Syracuse UniversityMarch 18, 2005Edward Byrnesedbyrnes@syr.edu
Syracuse University’s efforts to fight bias-related incidents on campus may be paying dividends, as the latest available figures show a drop in such incidents, from 81 in 2003 to 61 in 2004. Dean of Students Anastasia L. Urtz, whose office began compiling bias crime data three years ago, is encouraged by this decline and points to a number of steps the University has taken to create a more welcoming environment for all students.
“When we began collecting data, we found that most bias-related incidents were occurring in the fall and originating in the first-year residence halls,” says Urtz. “It was clear that we needed additional educational strategies to help our newest students work through diversity issues constructively. Our Team Against Bias and New Student Orientation Planning committees took this challenge seriously and have worked with students to achieve positive results.”
SU already had several measures in place by the time New York State Gov. George E. Pataki signed an anti-bias bill requiring all colleges and universities in the state to educate and inform incoming students about the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2000 and how bias crimes can be prevented on their campuses.
According to the bill, colleges and universities are required to develop and gain state approval of general policies and procedures to deal with what may be considered hate crimes according to the act; define bias-related crime; determine standards for student conduct in this area and provide sanctions for such violations; and designate an office where bias-related crimes or violations may be reported.
SU preceded that bill, signed into law in Sept. 2003, with the 2002 implementation of the SU Protocol for Responding to Bias-Related Incidents. The protocol educates and informs the University community about the process for addressing bias crimes on campus. In addition, it denounces tolerance of harassment, prejudice and other types of bias-related behavior. The protocol also includes the Team Against Bias (TAB), a trained crisis-response team that, among other activities, holds open forums and encourages group dialogue.
In 2004, the Office of Orientation and Transition Services and the Dean of Students Office created a team charged with working with departments across the University to create diversity and anti-bias programming for new and transfer students.
According to Juanita Perez Williams, director of Judicial Affairs and co-chair of TAB, “This team, made up of leaders from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Slutzker Center for International Services, Hendricks Chapel and the Office of Disability Services, to name a few, was pivotal in determining how to go about encouraging students to explore multicultural opportunities, yet be respectful of differences, and to speak-out against bias-related behaviors motivated by another’s race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, gender, nationality or disability.”
The new programs and educational awareness measures implemented in fall 2004 included: A letter from Senior Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Barry L. Wells to all incoming students describing the University’s commitment to its diverse population and the need to value and respect differences; a brochure, created by Student Affairs, to educate incoming students about the law regarding bias-related crime prevention; an educational CD, created by Judicial Affairs, to train all resident advisors about dealing with bias-related crime and incident prevention, reporting procedures, campus response and resources, and upcoming diversity-related programs on campus; and TAB presentations conducted by students for new students in the residence halls, educating them on how to respond to and report bias.
“Although it is too early to tell conclusively, we are hopeful that our education efforts are contributing and will continue to contribute to making the SU campus a safe and diverse place for everyone,” says Wells.
SU has also created a bias-related incident reporting Web site at http://assessment.syr.edu/tab/TABresp.php that is monitored by the Dean of Students Office. Each incident reported is tracked, matched with a Department of Public Safety report and monitored for follow-up. A summary is generated at the end of each semester and shared with the University community. The Dean of Students Office will continue to monitor all types of bias-related behavior and will take appropriate action as issues arise.For more information, contact TAB at 443-3728.