College Rolls Out New Bias Reporting System

Harvard College’s Office of Student Life has introduced a revamped system for reporting incidents of bias, which features multiple reporting avenues and the option to submit anonymously.

The changes come almost a year after more than 100 Harvard affiliates received racially charged emailed death threats, which mainly targeted women of Asian descent. These death threats spurred the redesign, according to Emelyn A. dela Peña, the College's assistant dean of student life, for equity, diversity, and inclusion.

While dela Peña said the College still wants students to speak with their tutors, proctors, and deans about incidents of bias, new initiatives like the email address reportbias@fas.harvard.edu and an online form that allows for anonymous submission create more outlets for students to report bias while enabling administrators to track data and look for trends among reports. Both the email and form are available on the OSL’s website and linked within the College’s new smartphone application.

Whereas the previous system was designed for reporting bias in the context of one-to-one interactions, the new system makes it possible for administrators to connect multiple reports referring to the same incident, like in the case of the email death threats, dela Peña added.

Along with the introduction of digital bias reporting channels, dela Peña said that the College is tentatively assembling a “bias assessment response group,” comprised of staff, faculty, and students to discuss community interventions. The group will include fewer than 12 students, and dela Peña said she has already asked the Undergraduate Council to identify representatives to serve on the committee.

In addition to the bias reporting email address, administrators created a diversity@fas.harvard.edu email address for inquiries related to “community and inclusion on campus,” along with the launch this fall of the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. The new office will focus on first-generation, undocumented, and foster home students, and expands the number of offices focused on diversity at the College.

The changes follow the creation of two committees last spring to begin the redesign of the bias reporting system. Dela Peña added that the planning efforts included researching and visiting peer institutions.

—Staff writer Ivan B. K. Levingston can be reached at ivan.levingston@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @IvanLevingston.

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