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Bias Education Response System (BERS)

Rhodes College Commitment to Diversity

A diverse learning community is a necessary element of a residential liberal arts education.  We, the members of the Rhodes College community, are committed to creating a community, where diversity is valued and welcomed. To that end, Rhodes College does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender identity or expression, color, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and national or ethnic origin, and will not tolerate harassment or discrimination on those bases. College policies reflect these commitments (http://handbook.rhodes.edu/). We need and appreciate your willingness to share critical incidents or concerns with us.

The Bias Education Response System (BERS) allows community members to report bias-related incidents and microaggressive behaviors.  Doing so will allow our community to 

  1. engage community members in dialogue, build awareness of on-going biases among us in order to help foster a learning, working, and living community free from hate, discrimination, harassment, disrespect, and intolerance.
  2. receive information in a sensitive and timely way.
  3. assess the circumstances of any reported incidents as thoroughly and quickly as possible with the information available.
  4. make referrals to appropriate campus officials so that action can be taken; and
  5. assist in implementation of a coordinated and appropriate community response (engaging partners as needed) and/or communicating with the community in an appropriate and timely fashion as often as is necessary.

Please note:  This system is not designed to respond to emergency situations. If your safety  or that of those around you is at risk, please call Campus Safety (843-3880 from an on-campus phone, or 901-843-3880 from off-campus or from a cell phone).  Any Rhodes student who requires urgent or emergency counseling services outside of regular office hours should contact the Student Counseling Center at (901) 843-3128.

Hate crimes: This system is also not designed to receive reports of hate crimes.  The underlying criminal offenses that are designated in hate crime laws include, but are not limited to, crimes against persons like harassment, terroristic threats, assault and crimes against property like criminal trespass, criminal mischief and arson. It may also include vandalism causing damage to a church, synagogue, cemetery, mortuary, memorial to the dead, school, educational facility, community center, municipal building, courthouse, juvenile detention center, grounds surrounding such places or personal property located within such places. According to Tennessee statute, the criminal act alone does not define a hate crime; rather the investigation of the crime must conclude that the offender was bias motivated. Six bias categories are used when reporting hate crimes: Anti-Racial, Anti-Ethnicity/National Origin, Anti-Religious, Anti-Disability, Anti-Sexual, and Non-Specific.

If you believe you have witnessed a hate crime, please report it directly to Campus Safety at 843-3880 from an on-campus phone, or 901-843-3880 from an off-campus or from a cell phone. Again, hate crimes should not be reported to the Bias Education Response System. If your personal safety or that of anyone around you is in danger, please call either Campus Safety or 911.

Reporting a bias-related incident:

In order to help community members decide whether and what kind of report to submit, definitions of the following terms are provided:

A bias-related incident is an act motivated by the offender’s inclination, temperament, or prejudice against the actual – or perceived – age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, religious practices, or sexual orientation of the targeted person or group, but does not rise to the level of a criminal offense. Examples many include repeatedly telling harmful jokes based on religion, sexual orientation, etc.; posting on social media about someone based on one of the identities listed above; using offensive language that may pertain to identity; and taking down or tampering with bulletin boards or displays. A bias incident can occur whether the act is intentional or unintentional.  Speech or expression that is consistent with the principles of academic freedom does not constitute a bias incident.

Microaggressive behaviors are insults, actions, or comments, usually unintentional, which contribute to an environment or experience that is not welcoming to a person or group based on their age, such things as ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, religious practices, or sexual orientation. Examples can include singling out a person related to their sexual, ethnic, religious, etc. identity in ways that make them feel uncomfortable, and usually occur more than once or after having been pointed out.

Bias-related harm versus the discomfort that can come with learning:

As members of a learning community, we must be able to see the difference between a bias-related incident and the kinds of thoughtful, probing conversations that educational institutions are designed to provoke. In such conversations, people will often find the ideas of others unwelcome, disagreeable, or even offensive. Topics are explored and discussed on college campuses that require us to think deeply and critically about our own assumptions.  These conversations may cause discomfort, but do not themselves necessarily constitute a bias-related incident.

Points to consider when deciding whether to submit a bias incident report:

When you participate in conversations in a residence hall, a student meeting, the Rat, or a classroom, it may be helpful to keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Speech that conveys reasoned opinion, principled conviction, political satire, or speculation is not harassment, even though it may challenge other people’s perspectives or comfort.
  • Speech and consideration of concepts that are pertinent to a class’s subject but which some students may find offensive do not constitute bias-related behavior. (See the College’s statement on Academic Freedom.)
  • However, when that speech unreasonably or substantially interferes with an individual’s safety, security, or educational opportunities by creating an intimidating and/or hostile educational or working environment, it can cause bias-related harm.
  • Interactions that allow for and encourage uncomfortable, yet productive discussion, create spaces for a variety of voices to participate equally in an environment of mutual respect. Discussions, however, in which individuals  feel their voice will either not be heard or will be subject to silencing, suspicion, or ridicule based on their personal background or their (assumed) group identity can cause bias-related harm. 

In summary, the purpose of this Bias Education Reporting System is to establish how Rhodes College defines bias incidents and how it can handle them more effectively. The reports will also serve an educational role in helping to cultivate community values of inclusion, civility, and mutual respect.

Reports about bias-related incidents will be forwarded, as appropriate, to the Office of Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Human Resources, and/or Campus Safety. It is can be very useful to report bias-related incidents in person or over the phone. If you wish to discuss a bias-related incident in person or by phone, you may contact the following offices:
 
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs (843-3009; Campus Address: 300 Palmer Hall)
Dean of Students Office (843-3885; Campus Address: 4th floor of Burrow Hall)
Campus Safety (843-3880; Campus Address: Spann Place #5)
Human Resources (843-3750)

To report a bias-related incident electronically, please click here.

 

[Information reported in person, by email, phone, or on the electronic form will remain confidential to the extent allowed by law and College policies. This means that your name will not be shared with anyone without your permission. A confidential report will make it possible for the College to contact you and, when appropriate, initiate an investigation. If you think you need to make an anonymous report, you can anonymously write or call any of the above offices. Anonymous reporting makes it virtually impossible for the institution to investigate and respond appropriately. Rhodes College really cares about the impact of bias-related incidents in our community and wants to gather a good understanding of any harms experienced. Anonymous reporting makes it very difficult to pursue a report appropriately. However, if you choose to report anonymously, the College will use it to track trends over time.]

For a description of the review process once a report has been submitted, please click here.

Additional Handbook Resources:

Discrimination and Harassment Policy

Rhodes College Statement

Discrimination and harassment on grounds of race, gender, color, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, and national or ethnic origin are forms of misconduct that undermine the institutional mission of the College and thus will not be tolerated. All members of the College community are responsible for maintaining an environment of mutual respect for all persons.

The College’s policy on sexual harassment and assault is contained in a separate document. This document contains the College’s policy governing other forms of harassment as well as discrimination. The Director of Community Standards is responsible for ensuring that students are informed of this policy. The Dean of the Faculty and the Director of Human Resources are responsible for taking necessary steps to notify College faculty and staff of the provisions of this policy.

Students should report violations of discrimination or harassment to the Director of Community Standards for review and adjudication.