By Kaylee Lindenmuth
Two years ago, a Bias Response Task Force was formed at KU to bring faculty, administrative, student, community leaders and experts together to combat hate speech and other “bias incidents” on campus.
“When some of the more vocal protesters and preachers have been on campus, and there’s been friction with students, we’ve tried to help anticipate these conflicts and diffuse the situations before they happen,” said Dr. Andrew Vogel, a member of the task force.
Vogel noted that, in recent weeks, there had been an “alarming spike in uses of discriminatory language or expression” and racially-charged vandalism on flyers, both of which the task force has been monitoring.
“[We] saw these and had a long discussion about what to do about these, what sorts of moves are appropriate,” said Vogel. “What we worry about is how to balance an inclusive university where people have diverse opinions, but then if those diverse opinions enter our community in the form of hate speech and cruelty, there’s a line somewhere, and we’re trying to find where that line is and what the appropriate response is.”
Vogel noted that “the university doesn’t take these matters lightly.”
“Sometimes, a response has to be more nuanced than some members of our community would prefer,” Vogel added.
“We have on our agenda, going into our next meeting, several strategies that we hope to explore, one of which we hope to implement before the end of the school year,” said Donovan McCargo, dean of students and chair of the task force. “We recognize that bias incidents will never end, but we can take steps to be responsive, to be committed to our community members so that we are aware and we let them know that we support them. That’s the beauty of the work that we’re doing.”
When asked how students can get involved, McCargo said students can submit a request to him.
“We definitely have a need for a student voice. We have two SGB members who serve on the task force, but we don’t want to limit that,” said McCargo. “What we do is not just for faculty and staff. It’s for the students more importantly.”
McCargo emphasized engagement from the KU community in solving the issues the task force faces.
“I want everybody to feel welcome here, and I don’t want anybody to be victimized by a bias incident, discrimination, harassment, racism, no,” said McCargo. “We will continue to work as hard as we can to eradicate that behavior, those actions, the language that offends people and makes them feel disengaged from our community. That’s what my desire is.”