Bias reporting system allows anonymity

by Katherine Burns / Beacon Staff • December 2, 2015

Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Sylvia Spears is in charge of the bias response team.
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Sylvia Spears is in charge of the bias response team.

Updated: 12/4/15

The Bias Response Program, launched in September in response to complaints regarding a lack of cultural competency on campus, recently began offering an anonymous reporting system.

According to Sylvia Spears, vice president of diversity and includsion, the bias response program allows students, staff, and faculty to report incidents of discrimination. She said that issues of Title IX, a gender equity law, should still be reported to Title IX Coordinator Pamela White. 

“There’s some degree of risk for people who might want to report that something’s occurred especially if there’s a context where there might be power over them,” Spears said. “They may not want something to be done, but they want it recorded.”

Spears, also chair of the Bias Response Team, said the committee looked at several other schools’ anonymous reporting systems to find features that fit Emerson best. For example, students can leave contact information when submitting a report and request that the team reach out to them about the issue, or opt to have it just recorded without contact.

According to Spears, no one has used the anonymous reporting system, but about five students have used the program as a whole.

“[Bias response reporting] gives students, faculty, and staff options about how they communicate to us and how we respond back to them, so I think that’s helpful so people have the two mechanisms,” Spears said.

Sheba Wood, a junior performing arts major and Student Government Association multicultural commissioner, said the system allows for more open dialogue.

“I think that conversation is going to help a lot because I think that this allows us to look at  isolated incidents, then apply them to more general wider systemic issues,” Wood said.

Going forward, Spears said, the team hopes to look at what patterns form in the type of incidents that are reported, but they haven’t seen any patterns in the reports they have received so far.

“We want to make sure the institution is fulfilling its obligation to make sure the community is safe and that the individual has everything they need,” Spears said.

 

Correction 12/4/15: An earlier version of this article reported that Title IX issues should be reported through the Bias Response Program.