The Dean of Students has formed a bias incident response team, and with that, a new method for students to report incidents of bias. The action comes in response to numerous reports of microaggressions and harassment on campus, specifically those faced by members of AHANA and LGBTQ communities.
The goal of the team is to serve as a platform for students to report issues of bias, to understand which groups on campus face the most bias and ultimately, to create a more inclusive environment at BC. Students can sign on to a Google Form and then anonymously submit details on the observed incident, with the technology allowing students to submit screenshots of content posted on Yik Yak or Twitter that can be interpreted as offensive.
Platforms like this exist at other colleges, like Dartmouth and Vassar, so BC isn’t breaking any new ground. It’s important to understand, however, the issues associated with such a system: the matrix of possible incidents indicated on the University’s website deemed reportable, and the students’ first instinct when witnessing an issue.
Distinctions between what constitutes a hate crime, harassment, and bias—differences between what is a microaggression and what stands as just a contentious comment—are very exact, which means it falls on the bias incident response team to escalate reports appropriately if more incidents come in through the form. The team is in place to make the distinctions about what falls where in the spectrum of different situations of bias, but confusion among students as to just what demands use of the tool could stymie usage of the platform.
The reality of relying on self-reporting is that certain communities at BC will not utilize the tool. While reports are helpful in identifying trends, a lot of incidents of bias will be kept in the dark if students are not properly educated on using it.
But, given everything, putting an infrastructure like this in place is a positive step toward changing some of the negative parts of BC culture. While there is the potential for the system to be abused by students pulling practical jokes and pranks, or flat-out misused when students are not sure of what is argumentative and what is an actual microaggression, the ability to form future programing based on the information collected will only be an asset for the University.
It’s important for students to remember that this system does not replace the role of the BCPD or the conduct system in reporting these issues. Rather, the bias response team adds to a network of resources already available to students. The new system allows students to report smaller moments of bias that might not be addressable singularly, but when reported across the BC population, can provide a needed perspective on systemic injustice at BC.
Featured Image by Kevin Hou / Heights Photo Staff
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that it was the Office of the Dean of Students that created the bias response team, not UGBC or Eradicate Boston College Racism.