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Shared Gov Report: UW-Madison Response Protocol for Incidents of Bias/Hate

March 5, 2012

On Thursday the 1st of March Kipp Cox, Assistant Dean and SAJA Director in the Dean of Students Office, gave Shared Governance Committee a presentation on the new draft of the “University of Wisconsin-Madison Response Protocol for Incidents of Bias/Hate”.

This internal document was being developed by the University in response to the realization made by Kipp Cox and other staff members that our University was the only campus out of many that did not have a set structure outlining how the University would react and respond to reported incidents of bias or hate on campus.  University of Wisconsin-Madison does have a reporting mechanism currently in place for students to report such incidents, but it is both hard to find on campus and does not include a set of guidelines for how the University should deal with incidents when they arise.  The stated goal of this response was to “support victims of bias/hate and provide educational interventions to both the offenders and the campus community”.

At the Shared Governance Committee meeting, students voiced their opinions on the current definition of “bias” and “hate” given in this document.  The definition describes bias/hate as 1) either single or multiple negative acts, 2) could reasonably be perceived to be based upon age, race, color, creed, religion, gender identity, ethnicity, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, marital status, spirituality, cultural or socio-economic status, or any combination of those listed above, 3) contribute to a hostile campus environment even if the act was unintentional or meant as a joke.  The committee voiced concerns with this given definition because it both did not mention physical threats or actions specifically as cause for a report, nor did it give a valid definition of what “hostile” meant to the University.  Kipp Cox responded by agreeing to edit the definition to include these both. All other comments made were complimenting the extensive inclusion of possible “hate crimes” and the fact that this document promises to treat intentional and unintentional acts the same in terms of the need of a University response.

The document then goes on to describe the two “teams” that would be responsible for investigating and responding to the reported incidents on campus.  The “Investigation Team” would take the report filed and collect information on the reported incident, including interviewing witnesses or the complainant themselves.  This team would consist of an Associate Dean of Students, the Director of the Dean of Students Office, the Assistant Dean of Students from Student Assistance and Judicial Affairs (Kipp Cox), and a Detective from UW Police Department.  This team would also have the ability to ask for help from other relevant community members that would have specific knowledge or expertise on a particular incident of bias or hate.  The “Investigation Team” would compile all gathered information and evidence of the reported incident and send that file over to the “Response Team”.  This team would then review the information and develop an appropriate response.  This team would have representatives from the Center for Diversity and Climate, Dean of Students Office, Residence Life, MSC, LGBT Campus Center, University Communications, UW Police Department, and a student representative (or a pool of potential representatives) from ASM.  The feedback given by Shared Governance was to add more student representation in the form of this “pool” of students ready to work on the “Response Team” as needed. Kipp Cox again agreed that the pool of students was a great idea and stated he would work to add that to the draft. Like the “Investigation Team”, the “Response Team” would have the option to ask for help from community members they consider to have expertise on the given type of incident.  The Response Team would have a variety of options in responding to incidents on campus, including but not limited to press releases, messages to campus and University community members, educational intervention with offenders, vigils, and are considering giving this team the power to advise the hearing body on the incident case on what action (disciplinary or criminal) they should take.  It should be noted that this group DOES NOT have disciplinary powers themselves, only the ability to respond to the incident publicly or privately and then advise a hearing board in charge on what punishments/responses they believe are necessary.  The flexibility of responses may not include punishments of offenders, but it does give the group plenty of options to remove the negative impact of the incident depending on victim or victim’s group wishes.

The final part of this draft document describes the new reporting mechanisms this “Response Protocol” would offer here at Madison.  Currently we have a form on campus that you can print out or pick up at various campus locations.  The problem with the current state is that students have a hard time finding said document, and then the students must go to a physical office on campus to hand in the paper form.  The new mechanisms would include a completely online form like other campuses currently offer, more hard copy turn-in locations, and an in-person option that includes a phone number that students can use while the incident is happening.  The hope is that with more options for students to report incidents, campus members will report more often and allow the University to track reports on campus and compile an annual report for further study on types of incidents and the responses taken.

Overall this document is just a basic outline of a bias/hate reporting system, but it is important to note that the University of Wisconsin-Madison has never had a formal set of rules and guidelines for investigating or responding to such incidents.  With the constant stories of bias and hate incidents across the country and even in our own campus area, this Response Protocol both creates a standard for team members and campus members to follow, and sends a message to the campus community that we as Badgers will not tolerate bias and hate in our home.  This simple outline is a great illustration of the University’s promise to make the campus environment comfortable and safe for everyone; in a way attempting to guarantee the greatest “Wisconsin Experience” for all who attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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