By Fleming Smith
On December 9, the faculty unanimously passed a resolution affirming their commitment to a diverse and inclusive campus and standing against the country-wide increase in bias incidents. Professors Paige Schneider and Adam Dahl of Politics, Andrew Moser of Philosophy, and Manuel Chinchilla of Spanish and Italian hope the resolution will encourage students to feel safe on campus, especially in reporting bias incidents to the administration. Dahl and Moser spoke to The Purple to explain the resolution and their hopes for its effectiveness.
“After the 2016 election, there has been a noticeable spike in bias incidents based on people’s identity, race, gender, sexuality; hate crimes, hate speech. And this has been documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” said Dahl. “In light of that, we wanted to reaffirm our commitment on campus our mission of ‘ecce quam bonum.’ And really in line with our mission statement, which is about justice, protecting freedom, and equality.”
On January 30, Dean of College Terry Papillon sent the resolution to the student body. Dahl and Moser hope to further this conversation with students by sharing the resolution on the front page of the University’s website at a later date.
“Part of the aim was to really reassure students who had been experiencing anxieties as a result of the election and recent events,” said Moser. Dahl added, “It doesn’t mean anything if it stays in our faculty meetings. It needs to be something that people see and talk about and know is there.”
On the Dean of Students Office webpage on the Sewanee website, a list can be found on how to report incidents through forms. Dahl and Moser believe the system in place for bias incidents is working, but the faculty and administration are aware that the system needs to be improved.
“I think one of the major things we discussed was a need for more transparency in the way students and faculty are supposed to go about reporting these types of incidents, and what are the resources,” Dahl explained. “There is to some extent a system in place but it’s disjointed, it’s piecemealed.
“There’s different kinds of offices that deal with different things, and it’s sometimes very confusing for students and faculty to know who to go to about these issues,” he continued. “Often, when students face these kinds of issues, we are the ones they go to, and we don’t always know what to do and how to handle these issues.”
Moser added that in addition to transparency in how reporting is done, the administration could begin to report the statistics on the number and types of bias incidents that take place on campus. “I think the administration is aware that the system really needs to be developed further,” said Moser.
Although the faculty and administration may take more actions along this line in the future, Dahl and Moser are first concerned with publicizing the resolution and starting the conversation.
“I think it’s not only an issue in our campus but also the surrounding community as well. When students go outside of campus, they might feel threatened or feel this anxiety about what’s going to happen if they go to Winchester or wherever it is,” said Dahl. “I think on campus is the first step, but we as a campus might start thinking more seriously about our surrounding community, not just what happens within the walls of the Domain.”