U.Va. reports increase of bias-motivated incidents

Student organizations forming “Eliminate The Hate” campaign

nsjustreportitcourtesyuva

The University has encouraged students to report bias-motivated incidents through the Just Report It system. 

Courtesy University of Virginia

Student organizations and administrators are responding to an increased number of reports of bias-motivated incidents.

Students received an email Nov. 2 regarding bias-motivated incidents from University Dean of Students Allen Groves; Marcus Martin, vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity; and Catherine Spear, assistant vice president in the Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights.

The email followed several incidents this semester, including anti-Muslim vandalism in Brown College, anti-Semitic graffiti outside of the GrandMarc apartment complex and the writing of racial slurs on doors in the Kent and Dabney dorms.

“The University administration condemns acts of bigotry and bias,” the statement said. “An academic community should be a place of comfort and safety, where students come to focus on their studies and explore challenging topics and fields.”

The email said there are “several theories” for the recent spike in incidents and said it could possibly be due to the “tone and tenor” of the presidential election.

The email also took note of more recent bias-motivated incidents.

“In the past day, we have seen additional incidents of hateful acts, including a racial slur used against African-American students and a homophobic slur placed on another student's door, both occurring in on-Grounds residential communities,” the statement said.

The University administration is planning on combatting this issue by compiling data from the Just Report It system currently in place and publishing it on the websites of the Office of the Dean of Students and Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights.

“In this way, we can achieve transparency within our community while also moving away from the use of periodic emails that draw attention to only some, but not all, reports,” the statement said.

Other efforts will include the formation of a Bias Review Team, developing an online module on implicit bias and providing further training for faculty and staff on issues of diversity and inclusiveness.

University Deputy Spokesperson Matt Charles said the University is still in the process of creating the team and compiling bias data.

Organizations on Grounds have come up with their own methods of combatting the recent displays of hatred.

The Minority Rights Coalition, Black Student Alliance, Queer Student Union and 54 other organizations released a statement Nov. 3 addressing the recent displays of bigotry.

“The acts of hatred that we have borne witness to do not occur in a vacuum — they form a pattern of hateful attempts to build walls between the members of our community,” the statement says. “We cannot let such an effort succeed.”

The group of organizations has decided to launch the “Eliminate The Hate” campaign, which will consist of “a series of events to advocate for a safer, more inclusive community that respects all of its members” taking place Nov. 14-18.

The statement described the campaign as an “opportunity to make our voices heard — to fight all forms of discrimination.”

“It is time to reclaim our University and remind our community that U.Va. is a home for everyone,” the statement said. “It is time to take a stand.”

The University administrators said the University supports free speech, but reminded students “acts of vandalism as well as certain speech threatening or harassing an individual is not protected.”

“As a community, each of us has the right to speak out against speech we deem contrary to our values, for speech itself is often the best response to hateful rhetoric,” they said in their email.

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