Conversations on Campus Climate

The university takes a step in revising bias incident policies

In response to bias incidents that occurred on campus, the Divisions of Equity & Inclusion and Student Life sponsored two Conversations on Campus Climate entitled “Preventing and Resolving Bias Incidents.”

The two conversations were held in the North Campus Residence Hall Great Room last Thursday facilitated by Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Stephanie Akunvabey.

“In terms of [bias] response, we characterize our work into three main areas: urgency, transparency and what are the additional resources needed for us to have more expedited responses,” said Akunvabey.

Vice President for Student Life Dr. John King also spoke at the conversations and said he provided action steps for direct student conduct changes including a commitment to a 15 to 18 day maximum period for a bias incident to be resolved.

King said the university also committed to bringing back students as hearing officers for certain student conduct cases including bias incidents and possibly an assault and behavior in a residence style. It will not be for Title IX incidents and students will comprise ⅓ of the panel with an administrator and a faculty member. The university plans to implement the change by the 2022 spring semester.

“We also announced we were bringing back a position that had been vacant since August 2020,” said King. “That position is a dedicated investigator for both bias incidents and Title IX incidents as well as a compliance officer for all of the various education programs students have to complete such as EverFi.”

A change King said he recommended was treating bias and harassment incidents in the same manner the university treats Title IX incidents in terms of visibility and prevalence on the webpage. This would mean bias incidents would have a dedicated bar to click on the university webpage as Title IX outlines specific policies for dealing with the incidents.

A commitment had been made by the university to publicly share each semester the number of bias and harassment incidents that occurred the previous semester and generally what happened in each incident without revealing personal information, according to King.

Akunvabey said making sure everyone had a shared understanding of what restorative justice as a key component of the student conduct process meant and what it looked like served as the other part of the brainstorming session.

Roger Williams University President Ioannis Miaoulis attended the first conversation session and participated as a table facilitator working with students during the collaboration period according to King.

Senior Wilmer Castillo who attended the conversation said he felt steps were taken.

“I felt there was a good dialogue between students and faculty and there was a kind of we are taking the step in the right direction feeling in the room,” said Castillo. “Overall that was nice, but I know that it’s not fully satisfying, which of course there’s not going to be after a week after people protesting, but I’m just glad the step was taken.”

Castillo said he has an “I don’t believe anything until I see it” mindset.

“I think some good things got addressed and are said to be implemented, but I don’t believe anything until I see it. That’s my rule, especially because I’ve been here for four years and there’s been a lot of good stuff before but I’m not going to believe it until I see it,” Castillo said.

Senior Melissa Calvo Vides who also attended expressed a similar feeling.

“We won’t see progress overnight,” said Calvo Vides. “We’ll see if any results come out of these conversations, but I know the school has been having conversations for decades and sometimes nothing comes out of it.”

In regard to the bias incidents that occurred during the past month, King said Student Conduct held three hearings last week on unresolved bias incidents and decisions were communicated to all parties Thursday.