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Bias system revised

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November 13, 2007

4:46 PM

p. College President Gene R. Nichol announced changes and clarifications to the controversial Bias Reporting System website in an e-mail to the Faculty Assembly today. Anonymous bias reports will no longer be accepted, and the powers of the Bias Reporting Team are now strictly defined.

p. The changes come in the wake of criticism from some alumni and popular blogs. One advertisement in The Flat Hat raised the issue that students may take advantage of the reports’ anonymity by reporting people just because of a grudge.

p. “We have been keen to make clarifications and alterations to the site to assure that it carries out its important purposes of allowing the College to respond appropriately to troubling incidents without violating norms of free expression or interfering with the processes of the faculty handbook or the student disciplinary
code,” Nichol said in the e-mail, in which he also thanked faculty for their input. “They also alter reporting and record-keeping practices and make clear that the bias incident team exercises no regulatory or disciplinary authority.”

p. A clarification was added to the top of the Bias Incident Reporting website in bolded, italic text. “The Reporting System does not create a new category of prohibited behavior or a new process for members of the College community to be sanctioned,”
it reads. “Any report will be handled in accordance with existing staff, student and faculty policies and procedures.”

p. Sam Sadler, vice president for Student Affairs at the College, said that changes to the site are just a clarification of the administration’s original
intention.

p. “Never was authority given to the [Bias Reporting] Team to do any kind of … punishing or anything of the sort. But that wasn’t clear. I think it was critical that it be made clear, so it has been.”

p. Sadler also explained the decision to require that students give their names when reporting bias. “Anonymous reports would never have been subject to any action,” he said. “But this makes it clear that you can’t notify us anonymously. If it was never going to result in action, then it doesn’t make any sense.”

p. Reports are entirely confidential, but if the plaintiff
and the administration decide to take disciplinary action, the identity of the plaintiff is revealed to the accused before the proceedings begin. Sadler said that this was always the rule in judicial cases at the College. “Where an incident is subject to College disciplinary or judicial procedures, the confidentiality requirements of those procedures will govern,” the Bias Reporting website now states.

p. Another addition to the website specifies that the College must keep records of reports in an aggregate form, without names or personal information.

p. Sadler said that he thinks the clarifications will put some criticisms to rest.

p. “I think [this is] going to go a long way to give some people some comfort, because I think there were some who were interpreting this as a totally new set of guidelines…,” Sadler said. “Without the clarifications, I can see how there was confusion.”

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