An important step for responding to bias
Dear St. Olaf Community,
Last year the college began working to revamp the policy and process for responding to reports of discrimination and harassment. I’m pleased to share with you the new St. Olaf College Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Misconduct, which provides a framework that hasn’t existed previously for addressing incidents of discrimination and bias.
This policy establishes a formal case management process for incidents of discrimination and bias that mirrors the college’s Title IX reporting process. The college has a Bias Response Team that is responsible for the initial evaluation of all reports the college receives. During this initial evaluation, the Bias Response Team will determine if the college should proceed with disciplinary procedures or, in a case where there is no policy violation, discuss other relevant procedures.
Kari Hohn will oversee this case management process in her new role as Director of Title IX and Equal Opportunity. In my new role as Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, I am in charge of all intakes for reports of discrimination and bias as well as general oversight of the Bias Response Team.
Members of the campus community who are looking to report an instance of discrimination or bias can use the college’s Bias Incident Reporting System or contact anyone on the Bias Response Team (listed here).
In addition to adding a case management component to the bias response protocol, we are also strengthening both the formal and informal options by which people can file and have their cases pursued by the Bias Response Team. This January the Bias Response Team and other partners from across campus participated in a Restorative Justice training program led by the Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute and Seward Longfellow Restorative Justice. Using a Restorative Justice approach to less formal resolution, we hope to make the inquiry process more educational in content, allowing both reporting parties and responding parties greater opportunities for dialogue, healing, and collective resolution.
Having this policy and case management process in place certainly doesn’t address all of the concerns about discrimination and bias that we’re facing as a campus community, and it doesn’t mean we don’t have serious work to do on a lot of other fronts. But this is an important step in the right direction.
I do hope you will take the time to carefully familiarize yourself with the new policy and, as always, feel free to be in contact if you have any questions or comments.
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion