New committee to investigate biased events on campus

AddThis

Commissioned to investigate racial and discriminatory incidents on campus, the Campus Climate and Response Team is the new liaison between the University community and the administration.

The CCRT was publicly launched last week as the latest unit of the Campus Diversity and Strategic Initiatives as a University-wide resource team that will develop and facilitate appropriate responses to address “biased incidents” that may impact the stability of the community, said Ryan Miller, CCRT associate director for CDSI.

The team was created at the request of President William Powers Jr. after a report was issued by the Campus Climate Response Work Group. The work group worked with the Diversity and Equity Student Advisory Council and other student leaders to develop the team.

Council member Shannon Allport, biology senior and senior student associate for the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, said the CCRT is answering the call from students who asked for more direct attention of discriminatory offenses.

“Quite frankly, there has historically been a number of discrimination and harassment incidents on the UT campus,” Allport said. “There is a significant disconnect between learning about diversity in the classroom and appreciating diversity while practicing equality in social and professional settings outside the classroom.”

The response team was created last year, but the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement decided on the public launch this year. Miller said they wanted to encourage the community to learn more about the team and are promoting it as the program individuals can go to for assistance with their concerns about discrimination.

“The response team will help connect the dots across campus when racial and discriminatory biases arise,” he said. “It will allow for representatives from across the University to share resources in dealing with these incidents.”

The CCRT will focus on investigating specific reported incidents and provide support services for the individuals involved, Miller said. Other core functions include providing education on similar incidents and evaluating the response process to improve crisis management.

Sherri Sanders, associate vice president for campus diversity and strategic initiatives, said CCRT will play a role in creating a more inclusive campus culture while also looking at patterns of reports that impact individuals within the community.

Miller said he believes the program will create a baseline to compare incident reports and statistics in the future. He said tracking these numbers will allow for a more comprehensive and accurate sense of the campus climate and what can be done to improve it.

Psychology junior Ashley Hall, co-director of queer activist student organization StandOut, said a program like the CCRT is long overdue whether or not discriminatory incidents are on the rise.

“While the current state of diversity and equality at UT is the best it’s ever been, there are still issues with racist, sexist and homophobic commentary from professors and student organizations,” Hall said. “It seems the program was created to address issues and incidents that have been ongoing but not well-addressed before now.”

Members of the response team include staff from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, the Division of Student Affairs and University Operations.

Miller said the response team will take more of a reactive approach rather than a proactive one for the time being.

“Our focus is to establish the best response to reported incidents, including help from our representatives across campus that are engaged in diversity education,” he said. “We are tailoring our efforts to improve the campus climate as a response team, but we will eventually initiate our own efforts to continue promoting an inclusive environment at the University.”

Printed on Monday, April 9, 2012 as: Team to investigate discriminatory events launches on campus