University responds to student activists’ call for a safer campus culture
THE SANTA CLARA
September 24, 2015
Student tempers flared last spring as anonymous instigators posted racist and incendiary comments on Yik Yak and the immigration awareness Mock Border Wall. As a result, the university is attempting to bolster student understanding about the importance of reporting bias incidents.
Sparked by these hateful occurences, a student activist group self-christened as “Unity 4,” came to the administration in Spring of 2015 with a list of 21 changes they wanted to see come to fruition.
Among these were an increase in the number of diversity classes required by the core curriculum, a rise in the percentage of African American students and a mandate that professors provide information about ethicspoint.com, a website used to anonymously report bias incidents, on all class syllabuses.
Santa Clara defines a bias incident as any speech, act or harassing action that targets or attacks a person or group because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, age, religious creed, disability, citizenship status, gender identity or “other status protected by law.”
In an email, Jeanne Rosenberger, vice provost for student life and dean of students, and Belinda Guthrie, the university’s Title IX coordinator, provided professors with information about ethicspoint.com and other reporting proceedures, but did not establish the syllabus addendum as a requirement.
In an effort to compensate for the unmet syllabus demand, the Office of Student Life (OSL) placed posters in every classroom over the summer encouraging students to “Speak Up” about incidents of bias, academic misconduct, discrimination, harassment and sexual violence.
The colorful new signs provide campus resources for each of the four categories of concern, as well as the link to a new Santa Clara web page on which students can report bias, student misconduct and sexual violence incidents.
As the university was implementing these changes, Campus Reform, an online news publication that aims to “expose bias abuse on the nation’s college campuses,” according to the website’s mission page, caused a stir by reporting that Santa Clara encouraged all students to “immediately call 911” for all bias incident reports.
On a web segment for Fox News Insider, former bowtie enthusiast and conservative news commentator Tucker Carlson mocked the Santa Clara protocol as reported by Campus Reform, describing it as “a hotline for hurt feelings.”
Campus Reform gathered this information from a dated university webpage and a flyer used to train Community Facilitators on how to handle hate crimes.
Rosenberger made it clear that the university never encouraged students to use the emergency hotline for bias incident reporting. Instead, the flyer was used in the context of a much larger presentation that directed students to call 911 to report hate crimes.
Rosenberger stressed the value in reporting these incidents through ethicspoint.com and the OSL link.
“It’s important that the university is honest about the frequency of occurrences,” she said. “If students aren’t reporting, it’s really hard to know if we’re getting any better at reducing the number of bias incidents.”
Alana Hinkston, a member of Unity 4, said she was pleased with OSL’s campaign but is concerned that the response is not enough.
“We’re asking for a change in systematic inequality,” she said, discussing Unity 4’s 21 points. “Forcing the faculty to print bias reporting information is not easy, but it’s necessary.”
Ultimately, she wants to see professors discuss bias reporting.
“It can’t just be CFs talking about this stuff. It needs to be discussed across the community.”
Contact Nicolas Sonnenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.