Dozens of students gathered in a White-Gravenor classroom Wednesday night to join in a discussion, but the issues they tackled were not academic. Rather, the group convened to address bias and tolerance on campus, in the wake of a semester that saw 10 bias-related incidents reported to the university.

Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson expressed “hope and optimism” that the Georgetown University community can get past several bias-related incidents that have occurred on campus this year.

In his opening remarks to an audience of approximately 80 students and administrators, Olson denounced incidents of bias on campus.

“Since we came together at the beginning of this academic year, we have seen more than one student physically harmed, harassed or assaulted because it was perceived that they were gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered,” he said. “We have seen students who were viciously harassed in an e-mail because of their race and their ethnic background. We have seen a Jewish student who had a swastika drawn on his leg. All these incidents are unacceptable. I condemn them, we condemn them; they have no place in our community.”

Still, Olson said he believes the university community is on the right track towards dealing with the issues and improving the culture of inclusiveness on campus.

“The other really different emotion I have tonight is one of hope and optimism, because in the midst of that, what I also see happening on this campus is a tremendous broad commitment that, for me, really exemplifies our Jesuit mission and our call to be women and men for others,” he said.

After Olson finished speaking, Dennis Williams, director of the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, asked the audience what they knew about the university’s bias reporting system. No one expressed knowledge of the system.

Williams said that the purpose of the bias reporting system is twofold: To provide students who experience a bias-related incident with support and also to document such incidents so that the university “can begin to hold its own responsible for what happened.”

embers of Leaders in Education About Diversity then divided the audience into seven small groups to discuss issues concerning hate and bias-related incidents. The focus of these discussions ranged from initial responses to the problems on campus, the effectiveness and visibility of the university’s bias reporting system, university communication with students and ways to make the campus more inclusive.

Hemly Ordonez (SFS ’08), who moderated the forum and said she thought it was productive and that she appreciated that administrators were present.

“I think it was really successful because it provided for smaller group dialogue so more people got to share their opinions . It was so well attended so you have a really good range of opinions and experiences. People were coming up with good concrete ideas,” Ordonez said. “Having the administration there was good because they were able to comment on the bias reporting system.”

This forum was hosted by GUSA and was sponsored by more than 30 student organizations, including THE HOYA.

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