Bias Reports Updated Through Spring 2012
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 28, 2012 02:09
Georgetown’s Bias Reporting System was updated this month for the first time since August 2010 and now includes statistics through spring 2012.
In April The Hoya reported the then-20-month inactivity of the website, the maintenance of which is the responsibility of the bias reporting team, which is composed of representatives from the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action and the Department of Public Safety.
According to the updated reports on the site, 49 incidents have been reported since August 2010 — 16 in fall 2010, six in spring 2011, one in June 2011, 14 in fall 2011 and 12 in spring 2012.
Director of the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access and Associate Dean of Students Dennis Williams, who serves as chair of the bias reporting team, said that the long drought was due to Georgetown’s outdated information technology systems and the lack of a point person responsible for making updates to the website.
“The website was basically created in somebody’s garage … so a lot of things became obsolete or didn’t make it,” Williams said. “We are in the process of updating the system … and filling a position and a part of that person’s job would be to periodically update the system.”
A new staff member in the Office of Student Affairs has been appointed to maintain the website, according to Williams, though he declined to name the individual.
The system was created in 2004 by the bias reporting team to address intolerance on campus, and a total of 181 reports have since been filed.
Before the implementation of the website, bias-related incidents often went unreported.
“You could look at [the university’s reported] crime statistics and say, ‘Oh, there are no hate crimes,’” Williams said.
Since fall 2004, the website has listed statistical breakdowns of incidents reported on campus each semester. The site also began including month-by-month breakdowns starting in September 2007. Cases are categorized by type of alleged bias, and reports give a brief description of the nature of the incident. Unlike the Department of Public Safety’s crime logs, no information is given about the location of or the response to incidents.
About 12 to 15 cases are typically reported each semester, though incidents spiked in the spring and summer of 2009, when 25 incidents were reported.
Williams said that even in the absence of updates between August 2010 and this month, the incident reporting system remained intact.
“People have been making reports,” Williams said. “Someone follows up with the person filing the report and makes sure that that person is OK, [checks] if there is anything that person needs in the way of resources and advises that person of any possibilities of recourse.”
Georgetown University Student Association President and Vice President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13)and Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) said that their administration hopes to publicize the system more aggressively this semester.
“It’s important that the university community follows up on these results, both in response to individual incidents and to address the larger problems within Georgetown’s culture that give rise to bias and harassment,” Kohnert-Yount said. “There is still a lot of work to be done to publicize the BRS to the Georgetown community, as many students don’t know that it even exists.”
Part of their effort includes adding the system and an emergency phone number for victims of sexual assault to Georgetown’s mobile application, which was unveiled at the beginning of the school year. According to Gustafson, this information will be added in the coming weeks.
Gustafson also emphasized the need to educate the student body on the meaning of bias and said that she and Kohnert-Yount would like to address the root causes of these incidents.
“We have to educate the student body on what bias is. Some students don’t know that; they don’t know what bias is even if they see it,” Gustafson said.
She added that the bias reporting team has been working with the Office of Residence Life to teach resident assistants about the system.
“RAs are, by far, the people who use the system the most,” Gustafson said. “We’ve had a few meetings with [the Office of Residence Life] to talk about how they do their trainings and how we can replicate some of their best practices on a campus level.”