Rutgers experiences shift in bias incident reports
Graffiti, offensive posters and flyers containing derogatory comments are just a few examples of bias incidents that occur on campus.
A bias incident is either a verbal, written, physical or psychological act that threatens or harms a person or group on the basis of actual or perceived race, religion and other categories according to Rutgers' Bias Incident Response Protocol.
Bias incidents have affected many minorities across the United States, including students at Rutgers. In February, a flyer stating, “Imagine a Muslim-free America” was posted on the front of Paul Robeson Cultural Center, created by the American Vanguard, a white supremacy group.
“We have not seen an increase in reports this year,” said Anne Newman, the chair of the Bias Prevention and Education Committee.
She said that although there has not been an increase in reports, there has been a shift in the types of incidents being reported since the Fall of 2016. Newman did not indicate whether this is related to the current political climate.
If a student witnesses an incident like those referenced above they should report the incident either in person or by phone, to the Dean of Students Office, Residence Life staff or another member of the Student Affairs staff, according to the University Student Affairs website.
Students can also report an incident using the online reporting form. If students believe that a crime has been committed, they should report directly to the Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD).
“It's important that all members of the Rutgers University—New Brunswick community feel welcomed and included," Newman said. "By taking an active role in reporting bias incidents, you are helping us get a gauge on the campus climate.”
After the incident has been reported, the Bias Incident Reporting Team (BIRT) will investigate the incident. According to the website, protocol includes contacting the person who reported the incident, asking them for their contact information, asking for information about the incident and requesting information about the alleged perpetrators among other inquiries.
All reports are kept confidential. This is to protect everyone involved in the reported incident.
BIRT also has guidelines for determining the proper response to an incident. These include where to report specific incidents to and what to do if the report does not meet the criteria for a bias incident.
For example, reports of behavior that include violations of University student conduct by a student or student organization are referred to the Office of Student Conduct for consideration and resolution.
Other examples on the site include where to report hate crimes, violations having to do with sexual misconduct and violations by a faculty or staff member. These incidents are referred to RUPD or the Title IX Coordinator for processing pursuant to that policy and the University Office of Employment Equity, respectively. If the reported incident does not meet the criteria for a bias incident, the investigation is continued in a subsequent office or no additional action is taken.
Following investigations, the Bias Prevention and Education Committee (BPEC) serves to review information discovered by BIRT. According to the website, BPEC analyzes issues and trends affecting life on campus in order to then make recommendations regarding future educational programs and initiatives.