Over the past week, the College has experienced a large increase in the number of Bias-Related Incidents reported through the CARE system. While an uptick in these kinds of incidents is also occurring in colleges and universities across the country, we think it is important to identify and acknowledge what is happening right here, so as to shine a light on the behaviors of a few, while we affirm our communal intention to be better than that.
Both the Office of the President and the Office of the Dean of Students have received calls from parents who are concerned that their children are uncomfortable expressing their political viewpoints on campus. Students from across the political spectrum have identified themselves to various campus staff and faculty as uncomfortable with the rhetoric surrounding and fallout from the election, and many have expressed visceral fear for themselves, their friends and loved ones.
In the past week alone:
Multiple students reported hearing vulgar and public discussions of a party that would explicitly exclude Black, Asian and Hispanic students.
A handwritten note containing explicit racist comments directed toward an Asian student was left on the student’s residential hall door.
Students have observed or heard other students making overtly religiously-biased and racist comments about other students.
A female student reported being groped in public by male students who also used extremely coarse language.
Ask yourself: Is this the kind of community I wanted to be part of when I enrolled—or decided to work—at UR?
We believe that for the vast majority of us, the answer is a resounding “no.”
As a community, we get to decide for ourselves where we draw the boundary between acceptable and intolerable behavior. That’s the beauty, and the responsibility, of being a self-regulating society. The school has the obligation to ensure that everyone has the right to express themselves, while also ensuring that everyone in our community is able to pursue their educational and career aspirations without being confounded by unnecessary obstacles.
We don’t have to agree with each other, but we must acknowledge our peers’ right to be here and to be safe, their right to express themselves, and their right to live free from harassment and discrimination.
The College’s communal principles, which require that we live within a continuum of fairness, freedom, honesty, inclusion, respect, and responsibility, serve as a useful guide for all of us in this difficult time.
As senior leaders in the College, we hold these communal principles to heart. Rest assured that each and every incident report is taken seriously. All reports are reviewed by the Director of the Burgett Intercultural Center, who convenes regular meetings of the Bias Incident Response Team (Deans Richard Feldman, Matthew Burns, Beth Olivares, and Norman Burnett).
This group is in daily communication, and determines the course of action for each report. Reports that reference faculty or staff are relayed to the appropriate dean and the department chair or supervisor for follow-up. All reports are also reviewed by the Office of Legal Counsel. Alleged bias-related Incidents that breach our code of conduct and/or the law will be investigated thoroughly, and may lead to discipline and/or criminal charges in severe cases.
Together, let’s agree to approach those whose beliefs, experiences and worldviews are different than our own with empathy and compassion rather than with fear and animosity.
Norman Burnett, Assistant Dean and Director, Office of Minority Student Affairs
Jessica Guzman-Rea, Director, Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center
Beth Olivares, Dean for Diversity Initiatives and Director, David T. Kearns Center
For those in the community who are interested in actively building a more inclusive community, please contact us to get involved with the “We’re Better Than THAT” campaign. For more information about the campaign, visit: rochester.edu/better-than-that or facebook.com/uraction
For more information about the Bias-Related Incident Report, visit: rochester.edu/college/bic/bias-incident-response/incident
To submit a Bias-Related Incident Report, visit: rochester.edu/CARE