UF has begun to create a dedicated bias response team following the recent Alpha Tau Omega incident that caused UF President Bernie Machen to send a letter condemning the actions of a brother.
The university will create a committee of various department heads and involved students that will deal with bias incidents that occur within the campus community.
Mary Kay Carodine, assistant vice president for student affairs and one of the heads of the future committee, said the mission of the team is to encourage “awareness, education and response” in the community about bias incidents.
Bias incidents differ from hate crimes in that during a bias incident, no crime is committed, Carodine said.
Once “a few more parts are in place,” the committee will open up to student involvement. Carodine said she expects a website to debut at the end of this semester or the beginning of next semester.
“There already is a response that happens to bias incidents,” she said. “What we really want to do is make the protocol cleaner and pull people in.”
Jen Day Shaw, associate vice president and dean of students, said the goal of this committee is to respond to the victim of the incident, as well as the community at large.
So far, UF has asked Gainesville Police to add hate crimes and bias incidents to their anonymous report system, but currently these incidents are handled by the U Matter, We Care campaign.
“We have the structure already in place, so really it’s more pulling stuff together and formalizing it and figuring out what training people will need,” she said.
LB Hannahs, director of LGBT Affairs and assistant director of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs at UF, said this team will be “filling in the gaps” University Police, housing and student affairs have left in their response to bias incidents.
“We’re in the beginning stages of researching what other schools do, researching models that will fit our campus culture and examining the resources and response protocols that we already have in place and seeing what works best for UF,” Hannahs said.
Hannahs said the hope is the information the team is gathering will give the department a fuller picture of what students are experiencing and where they are experiencing it.
“The response team isn’t about hunting down every single person and punishing them,” Hannahs said. “It’s about educating people how to advocate for themselves and educating people who perform bias incidents and how we can help them do better in not contributing to a negative atmosphere.”
A version of this story ran on page 1 on 11/7/2013 under the headline "Response team takes on UF bias"