The University of Wisconsin Bias Response Team released a report Wednesday that found students reported nearly three times more campus bias incidents in the first half of 2016 than in the last half of 2015.
From Jan. 1 to June 30 of this year, UW students reported 66 individual bias incidents compared to 18 such incidents from August to December of 2015.
UW’s bias incident reporting service allows students, on a website or at various campus locations, to provide information about bias incidents to the university’s Bias Response Team so UW may respond and track incidents. Reports can be anonymous.
Reports to the bias team led to support meetings, disciplinary sanctions like written reprimands, disciplinary probation or suspension, town hall discussions and broad messages sent to campus communities.
The new report found that 14 of the incidents in the first half of 2016 occurred in residence halls, 24 in campus buildings, 7 online and 21 off-campus or outside.
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Vice Provost of Student Life and Dean of Students Lori Berquam said in a conference call that UW is committed to creating a safe environment for students and referenced state law UWS 17, which states the university can only accomplish its mission if it is free from violence and harassment, as a source of motivation.
“We encourage students, staff and faculty to report incidents of bias or hate that they experience,” Berquam said.
Joshua Moon Johnson, chair of the Bias Response Team, said he believes the large increase in reports is tied to a greater awareness that the Bias Reporting System exists.
More than half of the reporters who identified themselves were women, and most were students of color.
Most victims of bias incidents reported being targeted for ethnicity, national origin, religion and race.
Moon Johnson said 45 of the reporters did not want follow-up action. He said it can be difficult emotionally for people to deal with bias incidents, so they may not feel comfortable talking to the Bias Response Team after the initial report.
“We want to provide the support that [the] student needs and is willing to [receive] and we don’t want to force them to do anything they don’t want to do,” Moon Johnson said.
This semester the group plans to continue in-person training workshops, which help staff, faculty and students recognize and report.
Moon Johnson said they also provide this training to housefellows because residents often turn to them when reporting bias incidents.
Berquam said incidents of racial and social injustice negatively impact the entire campus climate.
“It’s not [the] behavior we want to have on our campus,” Berquam said. “It’s not our values.”
Moon Johnson said the university plans to release reports twice a year detailing all of the reported incidents of bias.