Response team discusses bias


Mia C. Vu

The Bias Response Team had their first virtual meeting of the year for all students on Tuesday, Sept. 15.
The meeting was held to help Augie community members to understand their role in improving the campus social climate.
According to the Bias Response Team, a bias incident is, “…conduct, speech, images, or expression that targets a victim on the basis of actual or perceived identity characteristics”.
 The Bias Response Team’s efforts to respond to bias incidents began five years ago. The team is set for responding to any verbal or physical action that makes someone uncomfortable, whether it is intentional or unintentional or that might fall under a definition of discriminatory. 
Dr. Monica Smith, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, said the Bias Response Team’s shared responsibility and commitment is to strengthen a diverse, inclusive and thriving campus community for students, faculty, staff and administration.
First-year Ethel Anang, an international student who has recently been introduced to the idea of a bias response team, said, “the very notion of having such an institution is a good idea because it’ll raise an awareness that people in certain ways might be discriminating against others without noticing it.” 
First-year Destined Seghbean is an international student senator of the Student Government Association (SGA).
“When we have a bias response team on campus, it gives us the freedom to be our full selves and makes us have different perceptions about the matter of racism,” Seghbean said. “It makes us believe that Augustana is an inclusive environment, and regardless of what is happening in the country, we feel safe in our place and we feel included as parts of the student community on campus.” 
 Many colleges have bias response teams, but what sets Augie’s Bias Response Team apart from the others is its diverse representation of the community. 
“Because of the varying backgrounds, differing values and thoughts, the team exists to respond to situations that can or will arise when strangers from different cultures and varying identities come together.” Smith said.
However, discrimination can be in various forms and in different scales. Seghbean has been looking into the employment disparity between international students and domestic students as a SGA senator. According to him, dining hall services are the primary source of employment for international students. 
“Most of the international students working in the dining hall don’t want to work there, and when they apply to other places on campus, they end up not being selected,” Seghbean said. “It’s a job disparity, [and] I don’t know if this classifies as a form of bias.”
Anang said that for the bias response team, it’s not easy to identify what is a bias and what isn’t.
The bias response team cannot completely control all forms of interaction. Free expression is allowed, but students are still expected to respect others.
“The fact that you can express something doesn’t mean that you should. It is important that we encourage dialogue that is respectful and consistent with our community principles of purpose, openness and respect, responsibility and accountability,” Dr. Smith said.