A presentation on Cornell’s Bias Response Program constituted most of the debate at the Student Assembly (S.A.) meeting yesterday. The S.A. also passed a resolution condemning the recent proposals by the Administration to dissolve the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning.
Lynette Chapel-Williams, director of the Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity, and Life Quality, updated the Assembly on the University’s bias reporting protocol and statistics on bias-related incidents on and off campus.
The lack of an office to receive information on bias activity or to provide an adequate support system for victims was brought to the attention of the Cornell campus after six bias incidents in the fall of 1998.
A new protocol was established to address bias reports, most of which occur in the residence halls. The following year, residence halls formed committees to discuss bias incidents.
“The residence halls’ program was dynamite for addressing bias incidents that happened in residence halls,” Chapel-Williams said.
However, according to Chapel-Williams, there was no way to deal with such crimes outside the residence hall.
As a result, the Office has worked to facilitate a closer relationship between the Ithaca and Cornell University Police Departments.
“They [the Ithaca Police] are aware of our bias program, so they are able to call the Cornell Police and alert them of the incident,” Chapel-Williams said.
“The officers are trained as to what constitutes bias,” she added.
Over the years, the Office has developed precise definitions as to what constitutes a bias incident, a bias crime, and a bias discrimination complaint.
According to Chapel-Williams’ presentation, the definition of a bias incident is “an act of bigotry, harassment, or intimidation” against someone on the basis of their ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, and sexual orientation among other categories.
Chapel-Williams also gave statistics that her office has kept concerning bias incidents.
So far this year, eight incidents have been reported. Last year there were 85, which was a dramatic increase from 67 in the 2000-2001 academic year.
Because of the precise definition of bias incidents and easier means of reporting them, Chapel-Williams said that incidents were more likely to be reported.
The two major forms of bias that have been reported in the past three years have been graffiti and verbal attacks, and the majority of perpetrators have been undergraduate students.
“Where these [verbal attacks] come about have been in a drive-by situation,” Chapel-WIlliams said.
Of the eight reports received this year, seven have been because of the victims’ sexual orientation. Last year saw an increase of reports from Hispanic and Jewish victims, with African-Americans and Asian-Americans also targeted.
Chapel-Williams also spoke about the recent effort to address the incidents on campus. A database has been established to track reports and there has been a greater focus on providing support for victims.
“We really increased the follow-up with the victim. There are two people who will make contact with that person to deal with the situation,” Chapel-Williams said.
After the presentation, S.A. members were able to give their opinions on the bias report system.
“This is an issue that hits close to home for myself and my constituents,” said Sai Pidatala ’04, executive vice president and minority liaison, “We are going to do all in our power to make greater strides towards imparting knowledge through awareness.”
The S.A. also unanimously passed a resolution stating their position against the dissolution of the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning.
“The school helps distinguish Cornell from other schools. I would like to urge the Administration to drop this proposal,” said Jackie Koppell ’05, undesignated representative.
Ben Rockey-Harris ’04, architecture, art, and planning representative, believes that the proposal would decrease alumni donations, and he criticized the Administration for not seeking student input on the situation.
Other S.A. members agreed.
“Students have been extremely excluded from the decision-making process,” said Josh Bronstein ’05, vice-president of internal operations.
Rockey-Harris said that the next step was waiting for a decision from the faculty committee that is assessing the proposal.
“If they speak with a united voice, then it will be difficult for the Administration to disagree with them publicly,” Rockey-Harris said.
It was also announced yesterday that College of Hotel Administration representative Kris Ledbetter ’04 will be replaced by Daniel Jackson ’04. Ledbetter missed three consecutive meetings and is thus removed from the Assembly. Jackson received the second place vote in the S.A. election last year for the position.
Archived article by Mackenzie Damon