Responding to criticism that Boston College’s current reporting standards are inadequate, the Office of the Dean of Students—in conjunction with undergraduate and graduate students—has established a bias incident response team.
The team is primarily comprised of Richard DeCapua, associate dean of students; Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) student representatives Afua Laast, LSOE ’16, and Nick Minieri, CSOM ’16; and Ph.D. students Kevin Gin and Mark D’Angelo. Three other faculty members also take part in the group.
The team plans to offer BC students a direct line of communication to the dean of students for sharing their grievances, using an online form.
In the past, reports have gone straight to human resources, as there was not a specialized program to handle them.
Students can access the new form by going to the dean of students home page on BC’s website and locating the Student Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) tab, or by going straight to www.bc.edu/birt.
The form is open to undergraduate or graduate students, faculty, staff, or any individual who witnessed or experienced a form of harassment on campus. The page outlines what classifies as bias, harassment, or hate crime, as well as BIRT’s mission and purpose. BC students can report an incident of bias using the Google Form provided.
“You can do it anonymously, you can do it as a student who was part of the incident, you can do it as a bystander,” Laast said. “Literally anyone across the board can submit this request and go straight to the Dean of Students.”
Part of the form’s purpose is to gather data in order to analyze hate crimes and uncover any trends. This information will then be used to address such instances through programming, school-wide education, general meetings, and developing preventative measures.
“I think our reporting form is one of the best in the business,” DeCapua said. “We took all summer evaluating the best practices of other institutions and then got all the feedback of our students.”
This comes at a time when it is not so much isolated, egregious acts needing to be tackled, but rather more frequent micro-aggressions that have previously gone unaddressed, Minieri said. He added that last year a large number of AHANA students and members of the GLBTQ community raised concerns about the hurtful messages being put out on platforms such as Yik Yak, as well as surrounding the language used on campus. There were also complaints about the lack of outlets where these could be addressed.
“It’s all about collecting data on things we already know happen on BC’s campus,” Minieri said. “We know that people say, ‘That’s so gay,’ or the f-word, or the n-word, so this is the way for any student to report when those things happen.”
Students can submit screenshots or pictures of specific messages or posts they find biased. They can also detail times and places where acts occurred and have the freedom to write as much or as little as they feel necessary.
The BIRT will offer those who choose not to submit the form anonymously the option of being contacted and it will respect those who do not wish to further proceed with or relive the incident.
For those who would like to be contacted, however, the team can offer resources and guidance through the process, as well as analyzing if a conduct or criminal process is appropriate to pursue.
“You can meet with someone on the Bias [Incident] Response Team, or there’s actually a line where you can call for what you think should happen next, or what you would like to see happen next,” Minieri said.
Now that the system is in place, the team is working to tell students about the new tools available and the support offered. The BIRT has met with all of the RAs on campus and began its initiative by distributing flyers at the Student Involvement Fair.
The team wants to raise awareness among students and make them feel comfortable reporting incidents. In this process, it is working on creating a link on the Agora Portal for students to have easier access to the Google form. The board is beginning to meet regularly to outline the roles of each member in the hopes of making the Bias Incident Response Team effective.
“The biggest outcome is that it becomes normalized by students, that they know it exists, they know how to report something, and, if something does unfortunately happen, it’s kind of a no-brainer,” DeCapua said. “They know where to go.”
Featured Image via bc.edu
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that the two graduate students involved are Kevin Gin and Mark D’Angelo.