Workshop participants learn how to respond to bias incidents

Around 80 members of the CALS community gathered this past Friday to participate in an Interrupting Bias Incidents workshop, a training session designed to help people learn how to identify negative incidents and intervene in a positive way.

Ashley Smith addresses CALS faculty, staff and students during the Interrupting Bias Incidents workshop.
Ashley Smith addresses CALS faculty, staff and students during the Interrupting Bias Incidents workshop.

The event, which was hosted by Dean Kate VandenBosch and the CALS Equity and Diversity Committee, featured a presentation by Ashley Smith, a graduate assistant working for the UW-Madison Division of Student Life’s Hate and Bias Incident Team.

Smith started by defining bias-based conduct violations and microagressions, and then shared statistics about hate crimes on the UW-Madison campus, as well as details about the types of incidents that tend to occur here. The most commonly reported incidents are written hate speech and vandalism on whiteboards, bulletin boards, chalkboards or door decorations. Incidents take place most frequently in the university’s residence halls, but they also occur in other campus buildings, online and elsewhere.

Next, Smith had attendees break up into small groups to explore the following questions: How has this affected your work with students and your working environments? What have been your emotional reactions? When the full group reconvened, participants shared answers and other issues that arose during the discussion time, including how incidents on campus should be reported to students, the importance of empathy and the need to educate incoming students.

Smith went on to describe the impacts of hate and bias and suggested actions that could be taken if someone witnesses an incident in progress. She then described how to submit an incident report online. Report forms can be found at Faculty and staff are welcome to submit reports on behalf of students, and reports can also be submitted anonymously.

Next steps for the university’s Hate and Bias Incident Team include informing more people of the reporting system, hosting future workshops, producing a process to report incidents experienced by faculty and staff, and creating a policy for campus-wide notification of hate and bias incidents.

As the CALS Equity and Diversity Committee hosts more events to help improve our college community, they will be posted in eCALS.