The establishment of a “Bias Response Team” was one of several steps that Plattsburgh State took toward inclusion this summer, and it was given two strong co-chairs to lead it.
Interim Chief Diversity Officer Portia Turco and University Police Chief Patrick Rascoe were chosen to lead the new team that will “serve as the coordinating hub of a network of existing campus resources, focused on ensuring an appropriate response effort in a timely manner to bias acts and hate crimes,” according to a campus-wide email sent by University President John Ettling August 28.
The team was one of the “10 tangible steps” that Ettling brought to the Student Association Executive Council last semester, and it was a step that Turco saw as sorely needed in the wake of the racist Snapchat incident and protests of last semester.
“We didn’t have a single unified space for people to come in and make a report, or to really look for resources or make a complaint,” Turco said. “It became clear that we needed some sort of mechanism for people to be able to know what to do in different situations.”
The rest of the team will be filled out by a wide array of members from across campus, including Title IX Coordinator Butterfly Blaise, Affirmative Action Officer Lynda Ames and Director of Student Conduct Larry Allen. A full list of members can be found on PSUC’s website.
The interconnectedness of the effort will help better utilize people who were already on campus, something Rascoe is happy to see.
“We have some really good minds on this team to be able to come up with solutions to problems,” Rascoe said. “These are all existing resources on the campus, and the Bias Response Team is really going to be able to harness those and be a one-stop shop to be able to point complaints in the right directions.”
Turco said that reports can be made for any situation where an individual feels that a biased action has been taken against them due to their race, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation or age, or if they have been the victim of hate speech.
“It is to create a platform where people’s voices can be heard; that was one of the complaints on campus,” Turco said. “People were feeling things and experiencing things, and nobody knew. It’s important for students to know that somebody will respond. I think that might have been the missing piece for us.This is a way for us to ensure that every single person that files a report will have a response.”
Rascoe reiterated that due to the nature of the First Amendment, some things that students don’t agree with may have to go unpunished, but that if it becomes hateful, actions will be taken.
“Some things we are not allowed to do because of the content of the speech,” Rascoe said. “However, there are things we can do. There are ways to combat hateful speech, and that is one of the things that I think we’ll probably do well. We’ll give students a place to make a report and come up with a solution where otherwise we wouldn’t have had one.”
To make a report, you can go to the “Bias Acts and Hate Crimes” page under student health and safety section on PSUC’s website or report directly to any of the team members, including Rascoe and Turco.
“We need to be able to respond compassionately to these reports,” Rascoe said. “Every student who makes a report needs to know that their complaint is being taken seriously, needs to know that we care and needs to have follow-up so they know they’re being heard.”
Email Ben Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org