Whether or not students choose to admit it, discrimination is a problem at Georgetown. The University has commendably sought to reduce discrimination through the creation of the Bias Reporting System, but students must first become aware of the web site if there is to be any real change in the campus atmosphere.
The Bias Reporting System, a web site for reporting bias-related incidents, has been available since 2004 at http://www.georgetown.edu/student-affairs/biasreporting. The web site gives students an opportunity to report “language and/or behaviors which demonstrate bias against a person because of, but not limited to, others’ actual or perceived: color, disability, ethnicity, gender, national origin, race, religion, and/or sexual orientation.”
While the web site is a good idea in theory, University staff members believe that students are not using the Bias Reporting System as often as they should be. Dennis Williams, the director of the Center for Minority Educational Affairs, said that the incidents that have been reported are indicative of larger trends, and that many incidents are going unreported.
Students may not be using the Bias Reporting System because they are unaware of it. Shamisa Zvoma (MSB ‘08), the president of GU Pride, believes that most of the student population does not know about the web site, but that it could be an effective tool if more people were using it.
Alternatively, students may not be reporting discriminatory incidents because they are worried about the consequences, or because they dismiss bias as an unfortunate but unavoidable part of the college experience. Neither of these reasons are valid—the Bias Reporting System is confidential, and no student should have to endure discrimination on a college campus.
Fortunately, some student groups are trying to increase awareness of these issues. On Monday night, several members of the LGBTQ support group OUTspoken participated in a “flashmob,” gathering and handing out flyers for about 10 minutes to inform students about the prevalence of bias-related incidents and about the existence of the Bias Reporting System. More flashmobs are planned for the future.
The University has taken an important step toward reducing bias-related incidents on campus by creating the Bias Reporting System, and student groups like OUTspoken are admirably building awareness of the web site. But awareness without action is not enough. Georgetown students must take an active role in reporting bias when they see it.