UC Launches bias Incident Reporting Platform

Source: utica.edu

Source: utica.edu

Derek Hamilton, Staff Writer

Utica College recently launched a program called BRRN (The Bias Response and Referral Network) to target bias-related incidents or potential hate crimes on campus. This network was created in response to past events on campus, and serves to make Utica College a more welcoming community. The network provides a platform that all students can safely and effectively use to report bias on campus.

The BRRN is located on the Utica College website, where students can submit their reports and learn more about what is and is not categorized as a bias-related incident.

 The network will receive reports of bias-related incidents and will handle matters appropriately for those involved. Campus safety will conduct investigations as necessary, and the network will handle punishments and responses to reports. The college will reach out to local authorities to address any reports termed a “hate crime.” 

“The BRRN provides support resources to impacted parties, promotes education and dialogue, and affirms the College’s commitment to equity and diversity, free speech and academic freedom,” as stated on the webpage. 

The network is a joint effort between offices on campus, including Emergency Management, Student Affairs, Personnel Development, Marketing and Communications, and Diversity and Inclusion. 

“When a report comes in, the board will meet and look into the report,” Dean of Students and Campus Life Timothy Ecklund said.  “If the report needs a larger investigation it will be referred to campus safety or appropriate authorities if it is determined a hate-crime which is illegal under New York State law.” 

Any student that breaks the code of conduct, but is determined to be non-threatening, will be sent to the Student Conduct and Community Standards department for discipline.

Bias-related incidents, however, can sometimes be hard to determine.

“Bias often stems from fear, misunderstanding, hatred or stereotypes, maybe deliberately or unintentionally hurtful and can occur in a variety of forms,” as defined by the BRRN. 

Bias is not technically considered a crime. However, the New York law will be applied to any crimes determined to be hate-based.  

Musco Millner, director of Campus Safety, discussed the investigation side of bias-related reports. 

 “Campus Safety may be referred to look into the report or contacted directly if need be if there is an immediate threat,” he said.

 A normal investigation will be conducted if the report is not threatening. Reports are kept anonymous unless it becomes necessary to contact the person filing the report to investigate. 

A failure to report an incident can result from fear of retaliation, according to some students. 

“I think people are afraid to get singled out and harassed worse,” said Joseph Pezzella, a senior and cybersecurity major.

Pezzella said the fear of deductive reasoning that may come into play when someone reports a bias-related incident discourages a student from filing a report.

“If an incident happens and a couple of people see it and it is actually reported, those people that did that biased thing know who actually reported it. So I don’t know if it is anonymous that much but people may be able to find out who reported. I don’t know how much the reports would help.”

Senior cybersecurity major Justice Mitchell agreed with the fact that students may be afraid to file a report, but said that the confidentiality may help overcome that barrier.

“A lot of times it’s difficult for students to speak up, because they feel like they would be endangered if they report something,” he said. “If it’s anonymous then it will help.  If you can completely anonymously tip it’s like witness protection… it can help people feel confident coming forward.”

BRRN’s mission is to manage the response to bias-related incidents through a trained group. A committee representing college employees from several departments is responsible for BRRN, and each member is committed to making and keeping Utica College an open and welcoming community.

Any student who experiences a bias-related incident is encouraged to report to the BRRN or to any of the members, and incidents will be handled appropriately. However, the network is not a “crisis response team” as stated on the website, and when a student’s safety is in question a call should be placed immediately to Campus Safety at (315) 792-3046.