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UCS to reshape form for reports of discrimination, harassment

Members criticize form’s brevity, lack of details on reporting process, barriers from anonymity

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Undergraduate Council of Students brainstormed ways to improve a University complaint form for reports of discrimination and harassment in its weekly general body meeting Wednesday night.

UCS President Chelse-Amoy Steele ’18 introduced the meeting’s topic, saying that the group would discuss “bias-related reporting at Brown, what it currently looks like and what it could look like in the future.”

Steele told general body members that she began working on improvements to the current form over the summer and hopes to present an enhanced form to the appropriate administrators by the end of November. She aims to have a new form approved and distributed by the end of the semester, she said.

There are several methods to report bias-related incidents — including those that fall under Title VI and Title IX violations — such as a discrimination and harassment complaint form found on the web page of the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.

Steele described the form as “a one-page PDF document, where you have about two lines to share about the incident.”

Though the form does only have two lines for a summary of allegations, it also prompts students to “attach additional sheets as necessary.”

Steele continued, “Obviously, that’s not even enough room on the document” or enough information about the reporting process.

“There’s little information about how you can be anonymous, there’s little information with regards to ‘What would you like this process to entail in terms of outcome,’” she said.

Steele has been in communication with administrators about ways to create a more “robust” reporting process, in addition to improving the re-entry process of students who have committed discriminatory actions that the University deemed to merit time away from campus.

General body members then split into three groups to discuss potential improvements to the University’s form. Students expressed concern about the lack of true anonymity offered by the form, since — in addition to asking for the name of the person filing the complaint — it must be submitted by email or dropped off in person.

Steele showed general body members Cornell’s equivalent of the complaint form, which consists of an online platform that has almost 20 questions, extensive drop-down options and the opportunity to attach “supporting templates and documents,” which can include photos, emails or videos, according to the form. Students praised the form for its thoroughness.

“The Cornell form was a lot better,” one general body member said.

Students said that an improved form should provide the option of full anonymity and include information about the response process and resources for students affected by the reported incident.

Voting members also approved the Category I and Category III status for five student groups. UCS approved Nudity in the Upspace, the Brown Political Review and the Brown-RISD Advertising Department as Category I student groups and re-categorized Black Christian Ministries and the Society for Women Engineers as Category III student groups. Category I student groups have certain privileges, but do not receive any funding from the Undergraduate Finance Board, while Category III student groups have the same privileges, but also have baseline funding of $200 and access to supplemental funding from UFB.

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