Bias Response Team aims to fight discrimination

N–Bias-Response-Team Colby Patterson
Photo by Brent Uberty.

Photo by Brent Uberty.

Ali Sadler is relieved to see the new Bias Incident Response Team up and running.

Sadler, a junior in political science and Spanish, was among the students that attended the Bias Incident Response Team’s first presentation on Thursday afternoon. The event was a collaborative effort by the Response Team, the ASUU Diversity Board and Martine Kei Green-Rogers, a theater professor.

The team is the brainchild of former ASUU president Geneva Thompson. Sadler, who served on ASUU with Thompson, said the idea came out of a difficult election “full of incidents of bias that exposed how unsafe our campus really was.”

Belinda Saltiban, U director of diversity and inclusion in undergraduate studies, was tasked with creating a system to allow students who had experienced bias to safely and anonymously report it. University administration hopes this will improve overall campus climate and safety.

Saltiban’s team deals with incidents of prejudice that are not severe enough to be considered illegal discrimination. Along with racism, she also deals with biases against class, gender and gender expression, sexual orientation, body type and physical ability.

“If it’s reported, it will be addressed. That’s what we’re here for,” said Krista Pickens, the Title IX coordinator for the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

At the event, Green-Rogers’s theater class, called Devising Theatre for Social Change, presented on the issue. The class is designed to open up dialogue on difficult issues. Saltiban thought the presentation would be a good way to talk about social justice issues without making students feel uncomfortable.

The event closed with a presentation from guest lecturer Patrick Sims, vice provost of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and director of the Theatre for Cultural and Social Awareness. Sims believes in the effectiveness of theatre to raise social awareness.

“It’s about creating a space where people feel comfortable voicing uncomfortable opinions,” Sims said.

Sims praised both Saltiban and the U for developing a system to deal with prejudice. He hopes it will go a long way in making the U a safer place for all students.

“It’s going to take the whole campus and the sustained work of this team, but I’m confident,” Sadler said.

a.oligschlaeger@chronicle.utah.edu