Brown Bag Discussion Centers Around Bias Policy



Morgan Giordano


When first-year students ar­rive on campus for orientation, they attend many lectures and meetings to get them properly adjusted to college life. How­ever, the bias-related conduct program is not presented to the students during this time. On Thursday, October 13, students were able to attend a brown bag to help understand Colgate’s own bias-related incident policy. The brown bag consisted of pro­fessors and staff discussing the bias-related incident policy, and students were able to voice their own opinions.

The bias-related conduct pol­icy is based on legally protected categories, such as any sort of ha­rassment that is verbal, physical, visual or communication based. Stalking and hate crimes also fall into this category. The behaviors can either be interfering with a student’s ability to live, work, learn or participate in university life or create a hostile environ­ment that they can live in, but not happily.

“This policy was started be­cause Colgate did not have a clean policy on bias-related con­duct,” Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Uni­versity Harassment Officer and Staff Affirmative Action Officer Lynn Rugg said.

“It turned into a five-year pro­cess of different individuals head­ing it up until it got approved in October 2009,” Dean of the Sophomore Year-Experience and University Harassment Officer Kim Taylor said.

“The sexual misconduct and bias-related conduct policies were made together so they would mirror one another,” Rugg said. “However, I only did the sexual misconduct for the first-year students at orientation.”

The decision to only have the sexual misconduct meeting for first-years was a result of a series of sexual misconduct incidents that brought it to the forefront.Currently, one can report incidents either by calling Campus Safety, the harassment advisors or by reporting it online. There are ten harassment advisors for the 2011-2012 school year including faculty, two students and two co-facilitators.

“It can all be done anonymously, but it would make the proceeding more difficult to investigate,” Rugg said.

Reporting anonymously may not help the investigation to progress, but it would allow people to know the issues at hand. One may file a complaint to these same locations.

“To file a report and a complaint are dif­ferent,” Rugg said. “If someone threatens you with a knife, you do not go to informal resolution, but if someone goes by you and mutters something under their breath, that’s a case for informal.”

After explaining the policy on bias-relat­ed conduct and the process of reporting an incident, the floor was opened up to ques­tions and suggestions. One student sug­gested that there should be a more concrete punishment system for those who perform acts of bigotry.

Currently, Colgate does not have minimum punishments for such acts.

“The range of behaviors is so broad that it makes it challenging to put a sanction on it. The sanction determines the impact,” Taylor said.

In order to make sure every student has a fair trial in front of the bias-related conduct board, the members of the board do not have the history of the student before them and they make the decision whether the student is responsible for the offense or not. This al­lows the board to not be biased in their deci­sion. The question was raised whether the zero tolerance policy refers to minimum sanctions.

“I do not like minimum sanctions, but I like a range of sanctions,” Rugg said.

Expulsion is the most severe punishment the bias-related conduct board can assign.

“We have gray area options other than expulsion and suspension,” Rugg said. “Pro­bation always seems lower, but it goes to graduation with you.”

When one receives probation, the misde­meanor will be sent out to any job, medical school, law school, graduate school or study abroad program that the student is applying to.

“That is a deal breaker. It is on there what you did. You are a legal liability. It carries a lot more weight, like a DWI. You are a loose cannon,” Taylor said.

The conversation turned to how students can not only know about the bias-related conduct policies, but also how to make them feel comfortable reaching out if an incident did occur. Ideas were thrown out about putting up posters in common places that would contain the harassment advisors’ phone numbers.

One student suggested that the board try to make a bias-related conduct policy lecture into something that students will not try to get out of. Instead, they should try to go in a different direction to make it desirable like the “Yes Means Yes” assembly.

The idea that every student organization on campus should have an appointed student harassment advisor also was proposed.

Another student believed that the inci­dents that occur on campus should be posted in a public place such as the Maroon-News, like the blotter, so that the conversation can continue and not fade away.

Since the enactment of the bias-related conduct policy in October 2009, not a single case has gone through until this year. This event has caused the board to reevaluate their presence on campus and contemplate how to become a common resource.

“We want to support the students that come forward and protect them so that they do not feel like they have to transfer,” Taylor said. “We want to move forward from here.”

Contact Morgan Giordano

at [email protected].