Bias Site Inactive Since 2010
Published: Friday, April 20, 2012
Updated: Saturday, April 21, 2012 16:04
Georgetown’s Bias Related Incident Reporting System, intended to document and address issues of prejudice on campus, has not updated its online record of bias incident statistics since August 2010.
The maintenance of the website is the responsibility of the university’s bias reporting team, which includes representatives from the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action and the Department of Public Safety.
The system allows members of the university community to file online incident reports and then receive information about their rights and available resources.
According to Dennis Williams, chair of the bias reporting team and director of the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, the team continues to receive reports and provide consultations to students but has not updated its public records.
“It is inexcusable that we don’t have it updated,” Williams said. “We are working to update the numbers for the 2011 and 2012 academic year during the summer.”
The group was formed based on recommendations by the Hate and Bias Reporting Working Group, which was created by University President John J. DeGioia in the spring of 2004 to address intolerance on campus. According to Sivagami Subbaraman, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, the bias reporting team no longer has the personnel required to keep the system functioning as it was designed.
“All of us are doing this on top of everything else we do,” she said. “We don’t have a person dedicated to keep [the system on] track. It was maintained for a long time, and then that person left the job. It’s a matter of finding somebody to do it.”
A total of 133 reports were filed between the system’s inception in fall 2004 and spring 2010, the last semester for which records are available. The university saw an average of 11.75 incidents per semester, recording a minimum of five in fall 2008 and maximum of 25 in spring 2009.
Williams was unable to pin down a concrete average for the number of recorded incidents for 2011 and 2012, but said it fell between 10 and 24. Almost all of the reports were cases of verbal, physical or online harassment. Other types of incidents include destruction of property, vandalism and sexual assault. According to Williams, the majority of those who filed bias reports have been targeted because of their sexual orientation.
Williams and student leaders added that these statistics do not accurately reflect the number of bias-related incidents that occur on campus, which may be much higher.
“We live in a society and culture that shames victims and leads people not to want to report when things like that happen,” Georgetown University Student Association Secretary of Diversity Affairs James Saucedo (MSB ’13) said.
Saucedo emphasized that it is important for statistics on bias-related incidents to be publicly available.
“We need to know at what numbers and what frequency [bias-related incidents] are happening, just like we need to know how often people are getting robbed or having laptops stolen,” he said.
According to former former treasurer of GU Pride and GUSA Senator Laura Kresse (SFS ’12), many students are likely to ignore bias-related incidents.
“I think people have a misconception of what a bias incident is. Sometimes it’s clear and cut, while a lot of other incidents are more subtle, such as slurs when you walk by,” Kresse said.
Subbaraman echoed Kresse’s sentiments.
“Students might think, well, I get called this name 10 times a week, am I going to report it 10 times?” she said. “It’s because that’s what we’re trained to do, to not make a big deal of it, to not overreact, to ignore it.”
However, Subbaraman also emphasized that the reported numbers are key to improving campus equity and safety.
“If I cannot document to higher-ups that these micro-aggressions are happening on a day to day basis, I can’t ask for more sources, personnel or more training,” Subbaraman said. “There is power in the numbers, and sometimes students don’t understand that.”
According to GUSA Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13), GUSA’s Student Advocacy Office hopes to publicize the system by compiling and distributing a victims’ rights pamphlet.
Saucedo added that further publicity efforts could include posting the incident reporting forms on more university websites and sending out incident summaries to all students.
Williams agreed that reporting should be more greatly encouraged among the student body.
“When you file a report, it’s not snitching, it’s not whining, it’s not trying to get somebody else in trouble,” Williams said. “You’re performing a community service. You’re doing this to prevent it from happening again to the next person.”