College implements a formal procedure with new Bias Related Incident Protocol
By Hannah Tetzlaff
The new Biased Related Incident Protocol offers Ripon College students for the first time, a clear and formal procedure for reporting bias incidents, hate crimes and harassment on campus.
According to the new protocol’s report, a bias incident is defined as “a behavior or act—verbal, written or physical—which is personally directed against or targets an individual or group based on perceived or actual characteristics such as race, color, religious belief, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national or ethnic origin, disability, veteran status, or age.”
A new protocol was put in place due to students’ frustrations with how cases were handled before.
“The little feedback I have gathered originated from students saying that they feel like bias incidents happen on campus and that nothing was ever done about them, that there was no outcome–that they were made aware of–so that’s the whole reason why this started,” said Director of Residence Life Mark Nicklaus.
When cases of discrimination occurred in the past, the college had no formal way of reporting and processing the incident.
“[Previously], they would come tell myself or a trusted faculty member,” said Director of Multicultural Affairs Kyonna Henry. “Then we would try to figure out how to adjudicate. Now there is a process outlined in [the protocol],” she said, adding the college no longer has to guess on how to report a case.
The procedure details that a victim/witness can report the situation through an online form on the Ripon College Portal/Diversity tab,to faculty and staff or to the Incident Response Team. The team is comprised of Director of Multicultural Affairs Kyonna Henry, Director of Residence Life Mark Nicklaus, Associate Dean of Faculty and Register Michele Wittler, Assistant Professor of Sociology Marc Eaton and Assistant Dean of Students and Campus Safety Officer Jessica Joanis.
Once the event is reported, the team then determines the type of incident—whether it was a hate crime, Title IX violation or bias incident—and then takes action according to the specific situation.
Some students are happy about the new procedure because they feel like they are being heard.
“The feedback I’ve heard since we started from the students involved is that they appreciate that someone is listening to their story and listening to what’s going on…they are welcome that we are hearing them out,” Nicklaus said.
He added he has also heard some opposition concerning the protocol.
“The little opposition I have hear is that…it’s a ‘p.c. group,’ where they’re just to be politically correct and where they’re just to live in that little fluffy-bunny world,” Nicklaus said. “I see where they’re coming from in that sense, and we are social justice group that is trying to make this place better. I wish students would see that as well that we’re here to make everyone to feel welcome and included.”
Other arguments against the protocol were that people were afraid to say something due to fear that they might get reported and that the new procedure takes away their First Amendment right of free speech.
Nicklaus noted the protocol listens to both accounts of the incidents so as to be fair and just.
“We try to treat everyone equal and make sure we get their sides of the story because there are always two sides to a story no matter how foul it sounds,” he said. “After we hear their stories, we want to make sure everyone is safe, and if they are not, do we need to move them on campus, find them a new class, what do we need to do to make everyone feel safe?”
According to Nicklaus, the team has received some reports and has been successful in handling them.
“I have [seen some success],” he said. “We have had a couple incidents where students reported things going on [and] we investigated…So far they [the students who reported the incidents] have alway had witnesses that were also at this scene as well.”
The team is more than willing to listen to everyone’s concerns and help them in anyway they can.
“This protocol will help so many here and beyond,” Henry said. “We cannot become who we want to be (students of diverse interests that live lives of productive, socially responsible citizenship) by remaining what we have been.”