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New Team Against Bias analysis shows trends in timing, nature of bias-related incidents
New Team Against Bias analysis shows trends in timing, nature of bias-related incidentsApril 30, 2008Matthew R. Snydermrsnyder@syr.edu
A new analysis of data collected by Syracuse University’s Team Against Bias (TAB) and the Dean of Students Office shows that the vast majority of bias-related incidents reported in the University community occur in the first nine weeks of the fall semester and that the largest number of recorded incidents occur in the form of graffiti on residence hall white boards.
These are among the key conclusions drawn from five years of data on bias-related incidents reported to TAB, which has been collecting historical bias incident reports and accepting community reports and feedback via its anonymous online reporting site (http://students.syr.edu/deanofstudents/TeamAgainstBias.htm). An average of 100 such incidents per year occurred during the study period, which began in the Fall 2002 semester and ended with the Fall 2007 semester. More recent data for the 2007-08 academic year show that 87 bias-related incidents have been reported so far this year.
“The Division of Student Affairs views diversity and social justice as fundamental ends of enlightened higher education, and we have taken a number of steps to build a more welcoming, safe climate of learning for all community members,” says Barry L. Wells, senior vice president and dean of student affairs. “But it is clear from these data, and from our day-to-day interactions with students, faculty and staff that we must build on our work in this area, especially regarding the education of new students before and during their orientation.”
During the study period, the Division of Student Affairs helped launch the Intergroup Dialogue Program, which includes Conversations on Race and Ethnicity (CARE) dialogue circles in residence halls; the data collection and crisis-response activities of TAB; efforts to inform incoming students about bias-related incidents; enhanced new-student orientation programming; several new mentoring programs; and collaborations with faculty and staff in all areas of campus. Several of these collaborative initiatives have drawn national acclaim, such as the Campus Climate Index naming SU as one of the nation’s only five-star institutions in the area of LGBT-friendly climate.
At the same time, the data illustrate a stark reality of students’ efforts to acclimate to residential living on campus: Of the 500 bias-related incidents reported during the study period, nearly two-thirds occurred in the first nine weeks of the fall semester. About 70 percent of bias-related incidents involved sexual orientation or gender, and 244 incidents involved graffiti or graffiti-like forms of electronic and written harassment. Most reports are generated in residence halls with high populations of first-year students, and most of these take place on weekends — times when students may be bored, thrill-seeking, or engaging in use of alcohol and other drugs.
“It is critical to acknowledge that bias-related incidents are chronically under-reported in general, and especially off campus,” says Seth A. Tucker, director of the Dean of Students Office. “In our residential facilities, where University staff are in a position to intervene and report the incident, we are much more likely to capture accurate data.”
Adds Tucker: “It is gratifying to see a steep decline in the number of incidents after the first weeks of the semester — this trend suggests that students learn how to live up to Syracuse University’s community standards for a climate that offers no place for hate or bias, and encourages us to expand our educational programming around these issues.”
In 2002, SU implemented its Protocol for Responding to Bias-Related Incidents, which educates and informs the University about the process for addressing bias-related incidents and hate crimes on campus; denounces the tolerance of harassment, prejudice and other types of bias-related behavior; and charters TAB as the cross-University team that is empowered to respond to bias-related incidents and maintain healthy campus dialogue on the topic. The protocol precedes and comports with the New York State Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which requires colleges and universities to gain state approval for their bias incident and hate crime policies and procedures; define bias-related crime; determine standards and sanctions for bias-related student conduct; and designate an office where violations may be reported.
Based on the new study of bias-related incidents at SU, the Dean of Students Office has made several recommendations to the Division of Student Affairs, including fine tuning the online reporting tool, collecting more data on unreported incidents and, most significantly, enhancing pre-arrival education around bias and diversity for incoming students. To this end, the division will enhance the diversity-related content that appears in the readySET, SU’s system for communicating with new students, and explore other means of reaching new students to try to reduce early-semester occurrence of bias-related incidents. 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 the Dean of Students Office at 443-4424.