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Reporting a Bias or Hate Incident

To the Vassar Community:

The Dean of the College division’s Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) meets regularly to ensure that students and others have access to appropriate resources and to facilitate a coordinated campus response to bias-related incidents and situations that may impact campus climate. We will communicate to the campus on a periodic basis regarding reported incidents; a link on the BIRT web page where individuals can review reported incidents will be posted soon.

BIRT and the various offices represented believe that efficient responses, acknowledging impact, and equitable resolutions benefit the campus by ensuring that all members on campus feel included, valued and supported regardless of background or identity.

The safety and well-being of every campus community member requires that we respect academic and living environments and strive to be more inclusive in our actions and words. BIRT, in collaboration with many campus offices, committees, student groups and senior administrators, continues to work to build a more inclusive campus environment.

Please refer to the BIRT website as well as the headings below for more detailed information about our response protocol and procedures.

A bias incident is any intentional or unintentional act or behavior directed toward an individual or group based on any facet of the individual’s or group’s identities (ex. race, color, religious belief, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national or ethnic origin, disability, veteran status, or age). Incidents may take the form of, but are not limited to:

  • Graffiti or signs
  • Threatening physical and digital communications
  • Written or verbal slurs or threats
  • Telephone harassment
  • Confrontation, physical or verbal
  • Physical injury or assault
  • Damage to property

How to Report an Incident

Bias and hate related incidents can be submitted online, reported to an administrator or any BIRT member (see below). When possible, take a photo, document, or write down what was seen or heard as quickly as possible. Evidence is important for investigating an incident.

What Happens When a Report is Received

When BIRT receives a report, the content is reviewed to determine if factors of race, color, religious belief, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national or ethnic origin, disability, veteran status, or age are present and if there is evidence or information pointing to possible bias. BIRT also considers the impact of a behavior and spoken or written expression on individuals, groups or the campus community that may not reach the level of a bias incident, but has an impact or potential impact on campus climate. Vassar’s governance protects an individual’s right to free speech and open expression. However, free speech does not justify discrimination, harassment or speech that may be biased or hateful. Lastly, we report information such as general descriptions and location of the incident when relevant, but we do not report personal identifying information.

BIRT thoroughly reviews each report and reaches out to both affected person(s) and alleged offender(s) when known. Resources, support and educational interventions are primary response steps. The response team meets weekly and, as needed, for emergencies.

What BIRT Does Not Do

BIRT does not function as the “thought police” and will encourage campus community members to seek ways to dialogue and talk through differences of opinion and ideology.

BIRT is not responsible for investigating or adjudicating alleged incidents of bias or hate. Investigations are handled through the Dean of Students Office Conduct process and/or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action for determination of formal panel hearings where warranted. When there is a potential hate crime, local law enforcement handles investigations in cooperation with Safety and Security.

Confidentiality vs. Transparency

Occasionally, an individual may request anonymity or that information regarding a particular incident not be shared publicly. If there is no potential harm or impact on other individuals or the campus community, BIRT will respect an individual’s right to privacy. In cases where there is a community need to know, BIRT will communicate with the individual to agree on mutually beneficial ways to make the incident public.

Please contact anyone on BIRT with questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Edward Pittman
Associate Dean of the College for Campus
Life and Diversity
BIRT Coordinator

Members

Kerry Chaplin, Director of Jewish Student Life and Assistant Director of Religious and Spiritual Life
Christopher Brown '16, Student Association Vice President for Student Life
D.B. Brown, Dean of Students
Wendy Freedman, Director of Counseling Services
Kelly Grab, Interim Title IX Coordinator/Assistant Director for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
Luis Inoa, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life
Judy Jarvis, Director for the Campus Life LGBTQ Center and Women’s Center
Jeffrey Kosmacher, Director of Media Relations and Public Affairs
Bethel “B” Nathan, Director for the Campus Life ALANA Center
Samuel Speers, Director of Religious and Spiritual Life/Assistant Dean for Campus Life
Kim Squillace, Associate Director of Safety and Security
TBA, Faculty/House Fellow

(Others are called upon based on the reported incidents)

Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, September 17, 2015