Statement of Purpose
Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, American colleges and universities were primarily accessible to white men from middle- to upper-income households. Since then, colleges and universities have made notable progress in increasing access to higher education for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, racially underrepresented groups, students with disabilities, and women. This shift did not come about organically; it was the result of vigilant and tireless advocacy, and this struggle continues. Social vulnerability and discrimination are at the root of these struggles and continue to impact the discourse on who has access to college, and who will thrive in such environments.
With increased diversity comes increased risks of intolerance and prejudiced behaviors. Dickinson is a social microcosm and, as such, we must acknowledge how racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, classism, xenophobia, and other types of discrimination directly affect our community. We have many students who embrace the college’s ideals and strive to make it an inclusive, multicultural community. And many students’ overall experiences here are positive. But we also have students across a spectrum of identities who may experience Dickinson as a place where bias, harassment, or intimidation challenge their ability to learn and flourish. It is our responsibility and moral imperative to recognize, validate, and respond to these behaviors with care and concern.
As Dickinson has expanded and refined its self-understanding of who a Dickinson student is, the college has also been compelled to address how social vulnerabilities may inform the lived experiences of its students. The Bias Education and Response Team was formed through the conscious effort of faculty and staff to understand the lived experiences of many members of the student community, to promote an environment of healthy dialogue and inclusion, and to have a system in place for addressing reports of discriminatory macro- and micro- aggressions that violate our community standards. The BERT was not created to actively monitor the speech of Dickinsonians, nor does it seek to do so.
As the 2016 PEN America Principles on Campus Free Speech* asserts, “To be truly open to students of all backgrounds, orientations, lifestyles, viewpoints, and persuasions, the university must be cognizant of the factors that impair the ability of particular students and groups to participate fully and freely in campus life…and to take concrete steps to clear those obstructions.”
The Bias Education and Response Team is grounded in a commitment to educating Dickinsonians about ways to create an inclusive community through diversity, equity, and inclusion education, engagement in constructive dialogue, and fostering value for differing backgrounds, bodies, abilities, beliefs, cultures, and experiences. If bias incidents are reported, the BERT is responsible for addressing concerns sensitively and productively. Comprised of representatives from the faculty, the student body, and an array of administrative departments, the Bias Education and Response Team has always operated ethically and responsibly, and in adherence with Dickinson’s mission and philosophy. Dickinson’s response protocols are comparable to the laudable protocols of our peer institutions, and response interventions have consistently resulted in impactful educational outcomes and planted seeds for greater sensitivity and awareness.
* Accessible via this PenAmerica.org page: And Campus for All: Diversity, Inclusion, and Freedom of Speech at U.S. Universities