Stop Bias-Related Incidents

Current policies on dealing with bias-related incidents have received criticism from Scripps students. A new 5C committee, to be headed by Miriam Feldblum, dean of students and vice president at Pomona College, will address such criticisms, focusing specifically on discrepancies among each college’s notification policies. “Their charge will be to review the intercollegiate protocol and determine if any changes should be made to it and suggest revisions,” said Scripps Dean of Students Debra Wood. “They will consult with the campus communities.”  Scripps email notifications relay information on specific incidents and include contacts for aggrieved students. A number of students have expressed dissatisfaction with these emails.

“It feels like they think they’re doing their job by letting us know vaguely what’s happening, but I don’t see how that’s changing the problem or solving it,” said Jackie Wijaya (’12). “I feel like what we do isn’t enough.”

Antoinette Myers (’12), drew attention to the difficulty of deciding how much information to include in the e-mails. In her opinion, change can only be effective when it origin ates in the student body. “There’s apathy on our campus,” said Myers.

Others claim ignorance of what constitutes a bias incident, unsure of the difference between free speech and banned speech. Both the Scripps and the 5C communication protocols define bias-related incidents as “expressions of hostility against another person (or group) because of that person’s (or group’s) race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation, or because the perpetrator perceives that the other person (or group) has one or more of those characteristics. …[The] term ‘bias-related incident’ is limited to conduct that violates the Scripps College Principles of Community, one or more of the Claremont colleges’ disciplinary codes, and/or which is not protected by the First Amendment…or by analogous provisions of state law.”

In a reaction to this policy, Scripps student Adenike Idowu (‘12) asked, “What is not protected by the First Amendment? When they say ‘expressions of hostility,’ …do they mean that as far as actions are concerned or words are concerned?”

“It sounds like they’re being purposely ambiguous on what hostility is so they can protect as many people as possible,” said Hope Whitney-Monical (’11). “I don’t know if that’s problematic.”

Wood’s interpretation defines bias incidents as anonymous speech, speech unclaimed and “unwelcomed.” “If a student hung a poster [on her door]… that’s her right, unless it harasses people who walk by,” said Wood. A student crosses the line when she “vandalizes someone’s whiteboard.”

Whitney-Monical and Idowu agree that more detail should be included in Scripps’ incident reports. Doing so would lessen confusion surrounding campus policies. E-mails from other schools, “such as [from] Pomona,… will say things like ‘an openly gay student’ so you know why it’s a bias-related incident,” said Whitney-Monical. “However,” she said, “I understand protecting details to protect victims of incidents.”

Wood said that republication of discriminatory expression spreads undesirable ideas, but also firmly believes students must be kept aware of persistent prejudice. She said that public condemnation of bias-related incidents encourages “perpetrators to think more about their ideas and beliefs and contemplate changing them.” Though assured in her interpretation and practice of policy, Wood remains open to suggestions for change. “If we can do things a better way, we would appreciate any and all input.”