On April 24, the newly formed Mills Bias Response Team, headed by Assistant Dean of Student Support Services Gabriella Tempestoso and Director of Engagement and Inclusion Sabrina Kwist, and 25 members of the Mary Morse residential community gathered to discuss a recent incident that occurred in the residence hall in keeping with Mills’ commitment to address issues of racism that occur on campus.
Approximately one month before, a student in Mary Morse found a racist note stuck to her door. The note was brought to the attention of the Bias Response Team, who subsequently called the meeting with Mary Morse community members to create a space to discuss the note and inform residents how to deal with hate-related incidents in the future.
“This act and others like this are incongruent with the values of Mills College, the student code of conduct and our community value of social justice,” Tempestoso said in an email.
According to Tempestoso, the Bias Response Team’s formation is intended to follow best practices in responding to campus racism and other instances of bias by building “structures of accountability for those involved.” The team members include staff, faculty and students in order to represent all viewpoints and foster a transparent, communal environment when responding to a “bias-related incident”.
According to the Grievance Policy and Procedures portion of the College’s Administration Policy Manual, Mills views a “bias-related incident” as “an expression of hostility against another individual (or group)” based on any number of identifying factors—such as race, sex or gender identity—or a perpetrator’s perception of the victim. The policy was established in 2008 and revised as of Aug. 1, 2013.
Mary Morse Resident Assistant Kay Singh was grateful that a meeting was held in regards to the incident and that campus conversations about racism are continuously taking place.
“Not only did it inform us all of the severity of the term ‘bias-related incident,’ it also included the widespread impact of such acts on what is thought to be a community,” Singh said. “It served as an opportunity to have an open dialogue about bias with the community members that were present.”
Senior Charlette Viney, a resident of Mary Morse who attended the meeting, expressed frustration over the anonymity of recent campus events involving racism and how it affects the lives of all students in the residence halls.
“We are trying to live our lives—be students, work our jobs, and be productive citizens, but someone always wants to start trouble and be a racist coward,” Viney said. “I don’t sugarcoat racism, so what has happened in my hall is what only a racist, ignorant, immature coward would do.”
In light of the Black Women’s Collective recent List of Demands and the current campus climate, Mills aims to make these kinds of conversations more common. Tempestoso stressed that “bias-related incidents” on campus must be addressed because they “harm individuals and/or groups, undermine civility and understanding in the Mills community, as well as impede the educational process.”
At this time, the Bias Response Team has not specified whether they will be investigating the incident further. If a student has any information about a “bias-related incident,” please email BRT@mills.edu.