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Friday, February 23, 2024

UW System schools collaborate to combat hate and bias on campus

After a semester where the number of hate and bias incidents reported to the Bias Response Team more than tripled, UW-Madison is beginning to improve and develop tactics to respond to such occurrences by connecting with other colleges throughout the Midwest.

University students, faculty and staff attended a Hate/Bias Response Symposium where they joined forces with UW System schools and other institutions to discuss ideas for fighting against hate and bias and how to respond to incidents and crimes on higher education campuses.

Thirteen UW-Madison students, faculty and staff attended the event, including Chair of UW-Madison’s Bias Response Team and Assistant Dean of Students Joshua Moon Johnson who delivered a keynote speech.

The objectives of the event included building a network of hate and bias responders at schools throughout the UW System and surrounding areas, learning about the best practices and legality of responding to instances of hate and bias within higher education and elsewhere and providing resources and ideas for campuses that are planning to establish a hate and bias response team.

The symposium was designed for university faculty and staff who address incidents and crimes of hate and bias in their work, according to Johnson. His keynote address featured messages of encouragement for university faculty and staff who work with hate and bias on campus daily.

“The staff who are directly educating campuses, creating policies, and supporting those who are targeted can face much stress, anguish, and hopelessness,” Johnson said in an email. “At times it is difficult to keep doing work where you see students in pain and when you feel like there is little you can do to help … I hope that my message will provide space to practice self-care, build resilience, and find new ways to resist societies that devalue and target oppressed groups.”

The Jan. 10 Hate/Bias Response Symposium was the second of its kind. Johnson said individuals from many UW System schools and other Midwest institutions attended.

The day included breakout sessions for open discussion about related topics as well as two panel discussions—one focused on challenges facing hate and bias response efforts, and the other allowed student attendees to discuss the impact of hate and bias and their schools.

Johnson said he spoke on a panel at last year’s symposium about his experiences with combatting hate and bias on campus. Over the last five years he has written articles and books and visited college campuses throughout the nation to speak about the effects of hate and bias on students.

"As an administrator, I am always trying to further my knowledge on how I can better serve our students, especially those most marginalized or historically disadvantaged backgrounds,” Johnson said. “We gather to share best practices and to learn from one another. I am speaking at the conference, but I am also there to learn about how we can improve our systems and services at UW-Madison. Although we are the flagship institution, we can still learn a great deal from other institutions.”

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