The University of Texas at Austin has developed a Campus Climate Response Team (CCRT) that will serve as a university-wide strategy resource team to address bias incidents that may affect campus climate. As part of this new initiative to advance an inclusive and diverse campus climate, an online incident reporting form that can be accessed by faculty members, staffers, students, contractors, and visitors to campus also has been developed.
The response team was created at the request of President Bill Powers and as a result of the final report of the Campus Climate Response Workgroup. The team is made up of staff members from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, the Division of Student Affairs and University Operations. The team reports to Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement. Team members will be involved in finding ways to educate the campus community about campus climate issues and help determine appropriate responses to campus climate issues.
The University of Texas at Austin joins comparable institutions of higher education to establish an online reporting system and response team. Ohio State University, the University of Illinois and Indiana University are other large universities that have both a reporting system and a team.
“Just increasing numbers of students, faculty and staff from populations historically underserved or marginalized on campus is not enough to create an inclusive, open campus. More important are the experiences that students, faculty and staff have on campus.” Vincent said.
He explained that actions motivated by bias or prejudice are harmful to the progress the university has made. “The incidents to be reported to the CCRT are not necessarily incidents that would be considered hate crimes or involve criminal activity. The type of incidents to be reported to the team could run the gamut from graffiti regarding race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity to a student organization hosting a party with a racist theme.”
After an incident is reported, the response team will evaluate the incident as to what type of follow-up should occur. The response could include:
- mediation for affected students, staffers and faculty members;
- support and information to the targeted students, staffers and faculty members or to the persons who initiated the incident;
- identifying and connecting with appropriate support services;
- coordinating activities with other campus-wide identities, especially those involved with crisis management; or
- educational programming and resources for the community.