Aug 19, 2011
Humboldt State University is the first campus in the 23-campus California State University system to form a permanent Bias Response Team, effective with the start of the fall semester Aug 22.
Headquartered in Humboldt State’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Siemens Hall 209, the new Bias Response Team (BRT) provides three easy ways to report hate and bias incidents: online at humboldt.edu/biasresponse voice messaging at 707/840-HSU1 (4781); and paper forms that can be filled out at multiple locations, including the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the University Police Department, the Office of Student Affairs, Counseling and Psychological Services at the Student Health Center, Academic Personnel Services, and the MultiCultural Center in House 55, among others.
The BRT is a campus-wide, institutionalized process designed to address bias and hate incidents in a coordinated and comprehensive manner instead of a case-by-case approach. Humboldt State’s development of the process stems from the University’s commitment to maintaining a safe and inclusive campus for all of its members alike, students, staff, faculty, and administrators.
The team is led by a faculty appointee, partnering with HSU administrators, staff, and other faculty from a wide variety of departments. The multi-pronged unit will respond to and document incidents. It will also educate the campus community on a systematic basis about hate and bias incidents. Educational programming will span both immediate and long-term bias issues. Public forums will address specific topics and incidents.
A Bias Response Team Council with campus-wide representation will carry out the development and revision of pertinent policy and pursue reforms as needed.
Bias Response Coordinator and HSU Sociology Professor Jennifer Eichstedt emphasizes that the first-of-its-kind unit in the CSU is “survivor-centered.” The team will support the right of survivors or targets of bias and hate incidents to participate in shaping the responses to these incidents, as far as circumstances allow.
“We recognize that sometimes, because there are different targets in a bias incident, there are different needs that may be expressed, and we will work to meet those multiple needs to the best of our abilities,” Eichstedt said.
As coordinator, Eichstedt oversees the team’s day-to-day operations and takes first responsibility for organizing a response to an incident. A pool of some 25 HSU community members from across campus is trained to assist those who have been targeted. The overarching objective is to ensure the safety of all involved, and to support HSU’s efforts to build an inclusive community.
Bias is any form of physical, verbal or written act of abuse, including vulgarity, violence, harassment and intimidation, that is personally destructive of others and aimed at a target chosen for his or her actual or perceived membership in an identifiable group. Usually hate crimes and bias attacks are experienced by individuals, but may also be directed as intimidating messages to entire groups to which the individual belongs.
Many incidents of bias appear “micro” in nature—that is, an individual expressing bias who is unaware of the impact of his or her behavior. It can still cause great distress in those to whom they are aimed.
In contrast, a hate crime is legally actionable, for example in connection with property damage or personal assault.
Full details about Humboldt State’s Bias Response Team are posted at humboldt.edu/biasresponse.