by Grace Bachmann
Racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and misogyny flared in four separate incidents students reported to Denison University administration last fall.
The University held meetings over the winter to resolve the incidents of bias, but the dialogues made apparent the need for a clear response protocol on behalf of student safety.
This summer, a team of students, faculty and staff developed the Response Protocol for Bias and Hate-Related Incidents. Their objective was to create a clear protocol to help students feel confident in the University’s response to incidents of bias. “It was a concern on our part that there were moments of hesitation about whether [students] should report, whether action would be taken, and what that action would look like,” says Laurel Kennedy, vice president of student development. She identifies the uncertainty students experienced as a call to action.
The Protocol they created weaves together the University’s zero tolerance policy towards bias incidents and its response to misconduct.
Kennedy says that before the construction of the protocol, the system lacked a standard procedure and clear line of communication. Students previously reported incidents of bias to Resident Assistants who documented the incident and reported to Area Coordinators, Campus Safety and Security and relevant administrative offices. “All the parts were there—they were just invisible to the student body,” says Kennedy.
The Bias-Incident Response Protocol makes process of reporting an incident accessible to students. Now reports receive immediate attention to first ensure student and campus safety. Then administrative directors distinguish the nature of the incident as a crime, violation of the Student Code of Conduct, or an educational opportunity for the school. Meanwhile, Denison Campus Reporting Advisors (Denison CARES) contact the harmed party and the alleged offenders to create a plan of action to resolve the case.
The protocol both raises awareness about bias and hate-related incidents, and strengthens their response and resolution. Kennedy and the administration were troubled to find that “students know a lot about how to report sexual misconduct but not how to report bias-related incidents.”