New Bias Impact Response System Set for Pilot Testing This Summer

Ithaca College takes bias- and discrimination-related incidents seriously and investigates them thoroughly—and improving the current process for investigating and addressing such incidents has been a top focus.

This summer the college will begin using a newly revamped report-and-response mechanism to address bias incidents. The new, centralized approach includes the establishment of a Bias Impact Response Team, along with associated protocols, similar to those successfully employed at more than 100 other colleges and universities across the country. IC benchmarked and consulted with several of these institutions, including Louisiana State University, Columbia University, and SUNY Brockport, to develop its new system.

“Ithaca College will neither ignore nor tolerate words or actions intended to denigrate or marginalize any individual or group,” said Rosanna Ferro, vice president for student affairs and campus life. “Responding to all bias-related incidents in a timely way increases the chances that the investigation will be successful so the college can hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.”

Ferro added that results from the Campus Climate Survey issued in the spring of 2017 served as a catalyst for the new bias impact response system. An external review conducted by the campus safety and security consulting firm Margolis Healy also recommended establishment of such a system in a report issued in February.

Under the current system, people who have experienced or witnessed a bias-related incident have the option of contacting various individuals or offices to report the problem and receive help, if they want it. The new process will be simpler to initiate and navigate, and ensure that individuals have an easier, less fragmented, and more responsive process.

A cross-campus workgroup studied the existing bias response process, solicited broad feedback and ideas, and helped formulate the new and improved system, which features an online Bias Impact Reporting Form that takes just a few minutes to complete.

The workgroup included representatives from the Office of Human Resources; Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management; Office of the General Counsel (Title IX); Center for LGBT Education, Outreach & Services; Information Technology; Division of Student Affairs and Campus Life; Office of Residential Life; and the ICare Team for Students in Distress (Case Managers).

Sean Eversley Bradwell, director of Programs and Outreach in the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Life, is leading the initiative. He said the college is being thoughtful, inclusive, and intentional about creating a process that will benefit the entire campus community. “We’ve been working with members of our campus community on this program for the past eight months,” said Eversley Bradwell. “The new system will help us better ensure that incidents are documented and responded to much faster by the college professionals with expertise related to the reported incidents.”

Eversley Bradwell said the team received feedback on the new process from President Shirley M. Collado and the college’s senior leadership team. He added that the system will be shared with the chairs of the Tri-Council (Student Governance Council, Faculty Council, and Staff Council) before the end of the semester for additional feedback.

The New System in Action
The process begins when a member of the campus community submits the online form. Photos and videos can be uploaded but are not required. While the form cannot be submitted anonymously because a Netpass login is required, the submitter can choose to “not be contacted.”

Upon submission, the information provided in the online form automatically is forwarded to members of the Bias Impact Response Team for discussion and, if requested, a response within three college business days. The members of the team are:

  • Sean Eversley Bradwell, Director of Programs and Outreach
  • Bill Kerry, Director, Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management
  • Linda Koenig, Title IX Coordinator
  • Luca Maurer, Program Director, Center for LGBT Education, Outreach & Services
  • A faculty member to be named
  • The director of Religious and Spiritual Life, a newly created position for which a search is now underway

According to Bill Kerry, Director of the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management, the new system will be in a live pilot mode over the summer with full implementation taking place when students return for the fall semester. At that time, there will be a focus on educating the campus community about the availability of the new system and how to use it.

“We’ve created a system of reporting, support, and action,” Kerry said. “It’s not designed to simply collect bias incident data that sits idle; it will continually be assessed by the Bias Impact Response Team and an advisory committee that will include representation from the college’s senior leadership as well as faculty and students.”

“This new system is a very powerful tool that will help us continue to create the kind of inclusive campus that we strive for—a better place,” said Ferro. “And I want to thank each and every person from across the campus who has worked on this important initiative and supports its mission.”

Reminder: Reporting a Bias Incident and Seeking Support
Until the new system is launched, the IC community should continue to report bias-related incidents using the current process:

  • Complaints involving a student should be reported to the Office of Public Safety at 607-274-3333. Public Safety will work in coordination with the Office of Judicial Affairs to investigate the complaint.
  • Complaints against faculty or staff should be reported to the Office of Human Resources. Contact: Delphia Howze, Director of Employee Relations & Development, at (607) 274-8000.

In addition, members of the support network for students are available to listen and provide guidance, if requested, but are not an official way to report a bias-related incident.

Originally published in IC News: New Bias Impact Response System Set for Pilot Testing This Summer.