SLU policy states that “Saint Louis University considers acts of hate and bias unacceptable and antithetical to its commitment to an inclusive learning community that respects the fundamental dignity of all human beings.”
The protocol for responding to reported incidents includes the following goal: “Take appropriate actions to demonstrate that SLU fosters a community of inclusivity and commits itself as an educational institution to address incidents of hate, bias, or other acts of intolerance.”
These lofty goals align with SLU’s mission. We should identify with them and take steps to ensure that they’re being carried out.
But are the protocols working? According to the SLU Incident Log, there is reason to doubt their effectiveness. Two examples raise questions.
One reported incident on the log involves the following: “While driving on a public street, a SLU employee reported that they were verbally harassed by two unknown individuals in a vehicle with out-of-state license plates. The individuals yelled racial slurs and made obscene gestures at the employee.”
That’s right, a SLU employee endured racial slurs while on the job. This person recorded the license plate number of the car the offending individuals were driving. The incident was on SLU’s campus, and there was reason to believe that the offenders were SLU students, as they were soon seen entering the Simon Rec Center.
According to SLU documents, this occurrence fits the definition of a bias incident, as it is an “act that may intimidate, mock, degrade, or threaten a member or group or property based upon real or perceived considerations of . . . race, color, religion, [or] national origin . . .”
What was done in response to this reported incident? How was this matter pursued? The Incident Log states that “[t]he identity of the individuals in the vehicle is unknown,” so that the incident was “closed.” This makes no sense, since DPS had the license plate number, and DPS is capable of tracing a license plate, even one that is out-of-state.
Why was this matter dropped? Do we not want to confront SLU students for their harassing behavior? Do we not want to hold them accountable for their misconduct? If not, will they instead absorb the lesson that they are free to continue such behavior with impunity?
We talk the talk: “The University has a strong interest in supporting individuals impacted by Bias Related Incidents and promoting accountability for conduct that violated the University’s Community Standards.” Are we walking the walk? We need to be able to count on these procedures working.
A second incident on the log also raises questions. It reads, “Several members of the University community reported the defacement of a symbolic memorial on campus. The vandalism included incendiary rhetoric that targets one’s race and color.”
“Rhetoric that targets one’s race and color” is highly problematic according to SLU’s policy. This incident was in response to the memorial at the Clocktower that recalls the unjust killing of Breonna Taylor. How was the matter pursued and resolved? The log reads, “The Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity conducted an investigation under the University’s Bias Incident Response Protocol. Subsequently, the Bias Incident Response Team determined that this incident does not fit the criteria to be deemed a bias incident. As such, the bias incident portion of this matter has concluded.”
The matter was closed, because apparently “incendiary rhetoric that targets one’s race and color” was deemed not to be a bias incident. The SLU community deserves and demands more information than that, unless we are to read the protocols as highly ineffective.
The Incident Log has an educational function: it informs the university community about what is happening on this campus, and how infractions are being dealt with. The site needs to be made more useful by providing more information about 1) what happened, 2) how the matter was pursued, and 3) what the outcome was.
Give us reason to believe that these protocols are working. We’re watching.