July 18, 2019 | 78° F

Initiative aims to shed light on campus bias

Some students may see the phrase “Stop Hate. Report Bias” throughout the campus on T-shirts, buttons, bookmarks and banners in the dining halls and student centers.

The words serve as the slogan for the Bias Prevention and Awareness Campaign that aims to raise awareness of biases at the University.

“The committee encourages people to report when they see any acts of bias occur,” said Rabbi Esther Reed, co-chairperson of the Bias Prevention and Education Committee, which leads the initiative.

The campaign, which the committee began planning in 2010, started this semester and will last through the school year, she said.

“Our plan is for every third Thursday of every the month to be ‘Bias Prevention Education and Awareness Day,’ where we encourage people to try to be especially aware if any bias acts happen,” said Reed, associate director of Jewish Campus Life.

While BPEC does not officially organize any specific events as part of the campaign, the committee hopes that hosting an awareness day every month will encourage student groups to hold bias awareness events, Reed said.

The campaign will promote tolerance and diversity throughout the semester while encouraging students to report when a bias incident does happen, she said.

While there are many different definitions of what bias is, the University has an official definition of bias.

Bias is an act — verbal, written, physical or psychological — that threatens or harms a person or group based on race, religion, color, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, according to the University’s Dean of Students website.

The University also considers acts of bias against a person or group’s national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, atypical heredity or cellular blood trait, military service or veteran status, according to the website.

Reed said people who come into contact with verbal bias might not know to report it.

“Bias crimes like assault happen, and people report it to the police. But if it’s not the level of a crime, people feel like there’s nothing they can do about it,” she said. “Our impression is there are probably more bias incidents than the numbers that are reported.”

Because of this, the University asked the committee to try and educate students to prevent bias acts, said Cheryl Clarke, BPEC co-chairperson. The committee encourages students to resolve situations in which an act of bias occurs with the people involved.

The BPEC is a 20-member committee that formed in 1992 at the University, said Clarke, Livingston dean of students. The committee is made of the deans of students for each campus along with faculty from different departments of the University, including Dining Services and the Rutgers University Police Department.

Similar to the campaign, the committee’s main goal is to encourage students to report acts of bias if they experience it or see it, she said.

University students like Joseph Baricelli, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said they do not consider bias a problem at the University.

“I don’t think bias is that big of a problem at Rutgers or that there is a need for the campaign to report it,” Baricelli said.

Eric Francisco, a School of Arts and Science sophomore who is Filipino-American, has not experienced any racial or sexual bias either and is unsure if the campaign will change anything.

“Any campaign that occurs [for] any social issue has to be taken with a grain of salt,” Francisco said. “It’s hard to say if it could be effective.”

Camille Sennett, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, believes the campaign is a good effort, but University students will not report bias.

“I don’t think that many students will take the time to report bias because the biases going on at Rutgers are almost subliminal,” she said.

But Reed said students who take the campaign seriously could help out students at the University.

“It’s a value to report it so that University officials and administration know whether there are problems,” she said.

By Richard Conte

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