Bias Activity Reporting provides a way for students to speak up

Eva Mihelich, News editor

Mercyhurst always welcomes feedback from students, not just with IDEA evaluations or with MSG’s voice for the student body. The Bias Activity Reporting process is a new initiative to provide both students and employees a direct way to report instanc-es where they felt discriminated against in some way.

This was created by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in order to provide students with a convenient, non-intimidating method to report instances of bias or discrimination. Although Mercyhurst active-ly combats racism, sexism and homophobia, it is unrealistic to expect cases to completely dis-appear. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion recognized this inevitability and decided to do something about it.

Mercyhurst President Kathleen Getz, Ph.D. released a statement through an email to the entire campus community.

“I am pleased to announce that the University’s Bias Activity Re-porting process is now live and accessible on the Hub. This has been a top Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) priority for the university, one which I believe can slowly and meaning-fully build a culture of increasing inclusion and respect,” said Getz.

Although it is encouraged students disclose their identity for purposes of following up and taking more specific action, there is the alternative of keeping your identity anonymous for those who would rather just bring attention to the issue. Greg Baker, D.Min., vice president for Mission, described the purpose of this reporting comes from a place of desiring students to feel safe and included on campus.

“This new process is important because Hurst is not fully home for everyone as long as some feel like they are singled out or disrespected based on their identities,” Baker said. “It can help members of the university to recognize—myself included—that all of us always have room to grow in our understandings of diversity and in the sensitivity of our words and actions.”

The implementation of the new process has been an interactive process with faculty, staff and students on campus. Baker hopes that it encourages healthy dialogue about topics that may be difficult to bring up, while also promoting change in individuals who have made mistakes in the past.

“This is one of our significant DEIJ efforts to ensure that we are working to proactively build a culture of increasing sensitivity and inclusion. While it might help us to identify and investigate more serious conduct violations, the process is primarily designed to address microaggressions and individual words and actions that are offensive or inappropriate,” said Baker.

You can access the reporting form on the Student Hub, or you can contact Baker directly to make a report. With many cases of bias reporting at other places, Getz acknowledges that there will be some cases in which the bias was unintentional.

“As is the case at many cam-puses that use similar processes, we anticipate that most reports will involve unconscious bias or lack of understanding. We will work—privately and sensitively—with everyone involved to educate and facilitate dialogue and better habits of speech and action,” said Getz. “This reporting process will also assist individuals in figuring out if an incident is more serious and merits a conduct-related investigation through existing conduct processes.”

A large part of society today is “cancel culture,” in which a person is ostracized or cast aside due to being called out for some of their actions in a negative way. Although this is typically done to hold that person accountable for their actions, it is also deeply damaging to the accused and does not promote learning or improvement. Getz said that the newly implemented bias reporting is not intended to promote cancel culture.

“The process is a vehicle for growth and accountability, but it is not designed to “cancel” students or employees. Our Mercy tradition confronts unjust and unkind behaviors, but it does not cancel people. We seek as a community to trust in the mutual goodwill of one another, even when we might at times disagree or offend,” said Getz.

Getz noted that another goal of the anti-discrimination initiative is that students and faculty will not be afraid to have difficult conversations about diversity out of fear that anything you may say will be used against you or used to cancel you. She encourages healthy dialogue that shows respect for everyone.

It may be scary to stand up for yourself, but remember that by reporting biases you encounter, you may be preventing this from happening to someone else. Multicultural & Inclusion Co-ordinator Jessica Hubert offered encouragement for those who feel intimidated at the thought of reporting bias.

“Be courageous and know that the Bias Activity Response Team as well as the Immediate Response Team has your best interest at heart. We are people with faces whom you most likely see around campus all the time,” Hubert said. “We are human and under-stand that the reports we will get will be from very brave individuals who want to see and help make change on our campus, and the only way to do that is to hold folks accountable as we hold ourselves accountable.”

The only way to bring change on campus is to be the change. Encourage your friends to speak up if they hear about anything disrespectful being said or joked about. It may seem like a small step to report microaggressions, but small steps add up. If you feel that you have been discriminated against in some way, whether it was regarding your race, gender identity, socio-economic status, or some other aspect of you, consider reporting it to stand up for yourself and spread awareness for others. By standing up for yourself, you are standing up for others in the future.