Minnesota State University, Mankato was in the spotlight a few years ago when people in a truck drove around campus verbally harassing and offending students.
The incident made students who were targeted feel unwelcome at the University, and the University responded by forming the Bias Incident Support and Advisory Team.
Although it has been available to the campus community for a while now, it is currently being reintroduced to campus stakeholders through various meetings.
Director of African American and Multicultural Affairs Kenneth Reid and Director of Equal Opportunity and Title IX Linda Alvarez addressed the Student Government about this topic a few weeks back.
“We want to strive to make sure that our campus environment is inclusive and safe for all members of our community,” said Reid.
The implementation of the Bias Incident Support and Advisory Team is just one strategy for making that happen.
According to Reid, “It is an essential component to effectively respond to incidents that negatively impact students, faculty, staff and other visitors to the campus, and a part of a comprehensive risk management strategy.”
That’s also why it has taken some time for the reporting system to be created.
“The reporting structures, examination of best practices, and review of policies took place over some time to help ensure that the team would provide a strategic means of addressing these situations, identifying trends, and utilizing existing resources effectively,” said Reid.
The Bias Incident Support and Advisory Team will work under a protocol and other related policies and procedures to approach bias incidents in a timely and comprehensive manner, along with communicating incident-related concerns to the general campus community in order to keep everyone informed.
Some ways the Bias Incident Support and Advisory Team may respond to reported incidents include identifying the needs of affected individuals, advising said individuals to appropriate campus offices for help, and overall providing support, resources, and consultation to individuals negatively affected by the incident.
Other ways they may respond include: discussing whether the incident potentially has free speech or academic freedom implications; getting law enforcement involved if needed and permitted by law; and updating and educating the general campus community on the matter.
The biases reported may be about a specific individual’s experience or a large group affected systemically. Regardless, the Bias Incident Support and Advisory Team will respond accordingly.
“This is our way to make sure that we are cohesive in our effort and to make sure that we are working together,” said Alvarez.
In similar words, Alvarez said that the Bias Incident Reporting and Advisory Team aids in eliminating any confusion on where to direct students in order to get them the proper resources they need.
Alvarez also mentioned that the Bias Incident Reporting and Advisory Team “takes things in confidence” but “cannot guarantee full confidentiality” because if an individual affected by the incident wishes to move forward with a complaint, it may involve an investigation which requires more people to know about the incident.
In an effort to inform the campus community about this vital resource, Reid said in similar words that they will be doing more proactive outreach — including social media and other marketing strategies — throughout the course of this academic year.