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UB Develops Guidelines For Reporting Bias-Related Incidents

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: June 22, 1994

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In an attempt to encourage students to report bias-related incidents that occur on campus, the University at Buffalo has developed specific guidelines for students to consult when reporting such incidents.

One thousand copies of the six-page manual, developed by the university's Committee for the Promotion of Tolerance and Diversity, were distributed campus-wide in late May.

While no specific incident prompted the creation of the policy, committee members wanted to put in place a system, similar to those at other universities, that would encourage students to report all types of bias-related incidents, according to Michael A. Stokes, committee co-chair and director of the Office of Student Multicultural Affairs. The formal system now provides a mechanism for recording the frequency of such incidents on campus, Stokes says.

The policy separates an act of intolerance from other forms of intimidation or criminal behavior by its motivation. It defines an intolerant act as "any attempt to injure, harm or harass a person because of race, religion, color, national origin, handicap, age, sex or sexual orientation." Such acts, the policy says, are "motivated by hatred of the characteristics or beliefs of the victim. Acts of intolerance are conscious, deliberate behaviors, in contrast to insensitive acts, which may be the result of lack of awareness."

Procedures for responding to specific types of incidents, ranging from physical injury to bias-related vandalism, graffiti, posters, mail and flyers, are outlined in the guidelines.

Donna S. Rice, committee co-chair and associate vice president for student affairs, said several campus offices, including the Department of Public Safety and the Office of the Vice President for University Advancement and Development, as well as the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, are implementing the policy. Other groups, such as the University Counseling Center and Campus Ministries Association, will be called upon if appropriate.

Problems attributed to “insensitive acts” are being handled by the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

The policy was reviewed by SUNY legal counsel before distribution, Rice says.

The 24-member Committee for the Promotion of Tolerance and Diversity, composed of faculty, staff and students, was established as a result of a recommendation submitted by the Task Force on Campus Intolerance in 1989, Rice says. In addition to developing the new guidelines, the committee also aims to counsel students and encourage them to take advantage of the university's rich cultural diversity, she notes.

Stokes says he hopes the manual will serve a proactive function, as well as a reactive one, by conveying the message that the university will not tolerate bias-related actions.