Panelists Push Bias Reporting System Changes

Georgetown University should make it easier to report bias-related incidents, according to a panel of administrators, professors and students during a discussion in the Makóm Jewish Gathering Place on Thursday.

The current bias reporting system, which was introduced in 2004, enables students to report bias online and find resources to support them through bias incidents.

Both students and faculty on the panel said that there are problems with the current system’s accessibility and transparency, particularly around follow-up policies.

Georgetown’s definition of bias entails both verbal and physical personal attacks and attacks against minority groups on the basis of religion, gender presentation or orientation, race or national origin, according to Associate Dean for Student Affairs Dennis Williams, who also leads the bias reporting team.

Williams said that it is important to continue to develop the system’s follow-up procedures and ensure that there is as much transparency as possible throughout the process.

“It’s difficult for people to know what happens and that’s a flaw in the system. What we do need to get better at is identifying the most useful ways to use that information once we have it,” Williams said.

Luke Brown (COL ’17), who was a student panelist, said he was not aware of how the information gathered in the reports was acted on, used and disseminated.

“Today it seems to be a bit of a black box, where I certainly don’t know where that information is going and I wouldn’t feel informed enough to encourage or inform other students to seek out this resource,” Brown said.

Williams said while there are some incidents that may not be clearly motivated by bias, they should still be reported.

“There’s a lot of stuff that sort of flies under the radar that certainly doesn’t rise to the level of a hate crime, or that may not even be under violation of the student code of conduct,” Williams said. “It’s still just as important to let somebody know that it happened.”

Georgetown University Student Association President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) said that there needs to be a larger campus dialogue about bias-related incidents.

“This is something that sits very close to my heart as a student who has faced bias on this campus and I just think that when we talk about issues pertaining to identity and bias there are barriers to reporting,” Khan said. “I think it warrants larger student body conversations that don’t take place in echo chambers.”

Most harmful instances of bias originate from ignorance toward certain issues, rather than an intent to harm others, according to Kate Wysong (SFS ’19), a student panelist.

Wysong said the burden is on students to educate each other on how to live in a diverse environment.

“People may have grown up in places where certain identities are just not as prevalent and a lot of comments just come from ignorance. Maybe in certain contexts that comment wouldn’t be that offensive,” Wysong said. “Yet it’s then us students that end up being the ones ‘teachering.’”

Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, who attended the panel, said that “teachering” – the act of students teaching their peers on matters of diversity and awareness – has become a common trend across campus. Some students are growing tired of playing this role, according to Olson.

“I’ve heard from students that they feel like they’re in that teacher role a lot and that can be exhausting,” Olson said.

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