Hate Crime Response Protocol Updated

The College released a revised version of the Hate Crimes and Bias Motivated Incident Protocol last Tuesday after an ad hoc committee made changes based on community feedback.

The protocol describes the process for responding to and preventing Bias Motivated Incidents (BMIs) on campus. BMIs are acts perpetrated against people or groups because of their identity, race, sexual orientation or other such characteristic.

This protocol is particularly relevant because there have been several recent BMIs on campus, including the “cunnilingus” party that contained sexist and racist nicknames last May and the defacement of VPSA posters with racial slurs last March.

The protocol directs students who are victims of BMIs to contact Campus Security, which will respond and notify the Dean of Students and Vice President of Diversity and Achievement, who will then follow-up with targeted individuals to discuss the incident and determine the next steps.

The campus community may then be informed of the incident, depending on factors like the wishes of the victims regarding confidentiality and whether there is an immediate danger to the community.

The rules for campus notification are an example of flexibility in the protocol, which is an area the committee worked on.

“It needed to be more concrete but still have flexibility, so that was the main tension,” said Ragnar Thorisson ’11, a member of the committee. “We wanted to have a set response but still have flexibility to tailor the response.”

The one step in the protocol that committee members said should happen in all circumstances is an attentive response to complaints of BMIs.

“The targeted person must know who to tell and feel that the institution is interested in helping them,” said Associate Professor Karla Erickson, Sociology, Chair of the ad hoc committee.

“It’s important to work with students who are affected,” said SGA President Ben Offenberg ’11.  “But it’s also important that some information eventually gets out.”

These are short-term steps, but as a longer-term response, the protocol lays out methods for keeping institutional memory of BMIs. To establish a record of all BMIs on campus, a report with details of each incident and the response to it, while maintaining the privacy of the targets, will be filed with the Vice President of Diversity and Achievement. The Vice President of Diversity and Achievement will also lead a bi-annual review and revision of the protocol.

The protocol lays out only broad ideas for preventing BMIs, but several other ideas are being implemented already. A diversity trainer talked to the athletic teams at the beginning of the year and trained students are leading interactive workshops on diversity in tutorials.

“I don’t think any group on campus is the source of Bias Motivated Incidents nor can we target those in the admissions process,” said Associate Dean of the College and Acting Vice President of Diversity and Achievement Kathleen Skerrett. Instead, she emphasized confronting one’s peers when they act inappropriately.

“I was impressed by some of the individuals last spring who talked about speaking out at the moment,” she said.

AJust Grinnell is planning a campus-wide event for next week to celebrate the release of the protocol and its supporting documents.  The supporting document, called “Aspirations and Institutional Memory,” lays out the wishes of the committee that could not be immediately implemented because of financial or personnel constraints. These include establishing a permanent Bias Response Team composed of volunteer faculty and administrators, creating a searchable database of past BMIs, and implementing restorative justice.

The restorative justice proposal would, with the victim’s consent, replace the current College Hearing Board punishment with a face-to-face meeting between perpetrators and targets to provide healing and ways to make amends.

“Instead of dealing with it through maybe expelling people,” Thorisson said, “it’s trying to promote dialogue and heal the community and help the perpetrators see the consequences of their actions, rather than seeing these as individual acts that can be punished and forgotten.”