Campus News

Reports of hate and bias more than triple on campus

A recent hate incident occurred in Sellery Residence Hall, where swastikas were drawn on students’ personal whiteboards.

Image By: Betsy Osterberger

The number of hate and bias incidents reported on campus has increased from 18 in Fall 2015 to 66 in the spring, according to university officials.

Chair of the Bias Response Team Joshua Moon Johnson said those who reported predominantly self-identified as people of color, women and women of color. Many of the incidents involved bias toward race, religion, ethnicity or nationality.

Of the reported incidents, 14 were located in residence halls and 19 targeted religion. A recent hate incident occurred in Sellery Residence Hall, where swastikas were drawn on students’ personal whiteboards.

Johnson and Dean of Students Lori Berquam discussed the details found in the Bias Response Team’s Spring 2016 Bias Incident Report in a conference call Wednesday, the day of its release.

“UW System Administrative Code 17, our state law and our code, states that the university can only accomplish its educational mission if its living and learning environment is free from violence, harassment and intimidation,” Berquam said. “We encourage our students, staff and faculty to report these acts of incidents of bias or hate that they experience. The Bias Response Team’s purpose is to help those affected and to educate and inform our campus community.”

The Bias Response Team plans to issue two reports a year. The Spring 2016 report covers incidents reported Jan. 1 through June 30.

“During that time period our team did put an effort into making the campus more aware of the bias reporting system,” Johnson said. “We do believe that, because of this additional marketing and communication through various methods, those are the reasons why we've had more reports during this period versus prior time.”

According to Johnson, most of those who reported wanted to make the university aware of the incident and how it affected them personally rather than seeking follow-up actions from the university or law enforcement after reporting.

“All of our efforts are geared at, in totality, any incidence of bias or hate,” Berquam said. “We also work in partnership with UW-Madison Police Department and their efforts to address any specific crimes that are happening. Some of these incidents don’t actually rise to the level of what Wisconsin identifies or defines as a crime, but we certainly are still concerned about addressing particular things, like graffiti, and working to get them removed quickly.”

The Bias Response Team and UW-Madison administration plan to combat hate and bias incidents by offering workshops to student organizations and academic departments. Johnson said these workshops will define what a hate and bias incident is, how to recognize one, how to intervene and detail the reporting process. They also have educational materials available. Their main goal is to educate the community while also assisting individuals affected by intolerance, Johnson said.

"I'm happy that we have a mechanism so that students who are impacted can be heard,” Berquam said. “That bleeds into a bigger commitment from the campus and how we address this as a climate issue for everyone. Building awareness and that understanding, while at the same time those who have been directly impacted.”

UPDATE Oct. 12, 5:31 p.m. This story was updated toclarify attributions.

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