Staff Editorial: Bias system better defined

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November 13, 2007

10:30 PM

There is no reason to fear the Bias Reporting System.

p. Recently, concerns were raised as to the nature and consequences of the BRS, in particular the apparent lack of accountability to which respondents are held. However, College President Gene Nichol sent an e-mail to the Faculty Assembly yesterday explaining that anonymous submissions of bias incidents will not be accepted.

p. Students’ names will remain confidential, but if the College decides to bring judicial action against a student, the accused student will be told the identity of the person submitting the complaint.

p. Despite recent outrage among students and alumni that included an Orwellian, full-page ad in The Flat Hat comparing Nichol to Big Brother, Nichol’s recent clarification should put an end to these criticisms. While the concern over anonymity led some to fear that students could take out personal vendettas against faculty and other students using this new online medium, the clarification by the administration shows that this is not an issue.

p. Furthermore, the system is by no means new. Students have always been able to report incidents of bias. The only significant change is that the process has been made more efficient by consolidating submissions online. The punishment process has not changed, and judicial action resulting from website reports will be conducted in the same manner as they have in the past.

p. Another concern with the new system was that records would be kept detailing names and situational information for each incident. Clarifications on the BRS website now indicate that only “a database of aggregated information” will be maintained by the chair of the bias incident reporting team, and that “personally identifying characteristics” will be omitted.

p. Perhaps some of these critics were unaware that there was a pre-existing system for reporting these incidents. In an age in which databases, information collections and archives have benefited by using the web and other electronic programs, it seems only logical that the College would collect reports of bias in a similar manner.

p. We applaud the College for making this clarification, as it seems that the debate was centered on a few misunderstandings. Students must have a forum for reporting offensive behavior, much as they have in the past, and the transition to an online system is a welcome and logical next step to the system already in place. Likewise, the College has made clear that only valid incidents of bias will be considered, and the removal of anonymous reporting should ensure that students will take the system seriously.

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