There were three racist incidents involving IU staff this month. A bus driver aggressively told a black student to move back on the bus, an employee of an IU-contracted third-party company harassed sophomore Andrew Rhodes for riding his scooter in the road, reportedly calling him a racial slur, and junior Taylor Carlton was reportedly asked multiple times for ID in the Intramural Center while a white student was not.
Even though Bloomington is commonly considered a liberal college town, racist incidents have proven to be frustratingly common. IU has a responsibility to better educate students about what resources they have when confronted with racism and take stronger actions when racism is exposed to encourage more reporting.
Students who experienced or witnessed a bias incident can submit a report to the Division of Student Affairs. The process is outlined on their website.
“We’re here to support you in any way possible,” Director of Bias Response Cedric Harris said. “Just let us know.”
It is difficult for the university to respond to bias incidents if they go unreported. They need information from the student involved or witnesses, but many students might not submit bias reports because they don’t think the university will take action. It’s a dangerous cycle that can leave many racists unreported and unpunished.
Carlton, the junior who reported discrimination at the Intramural Center, told the Indiana Daily Student she did not report the incident in the Intramural Center.
“I felt me doing it is not going to stop anything from happening," Carlton said. "Nobody will be reprimanded.”
All students should report bias incidents they experience or witness, but the responsibility to increase reporting falls on IU’s shoulders. When confronted with a bias incident, the university should consistently pursue the strongest action legally available to it. Having consequences to racist statements is a tangible demonstration of the university’s concern for the rights of minority students. It proves to students that drawing the university’s attention to an issue can lead to a safer campus for minority students.
Graduate student Kendyll Owens was on the bus when the driver yelled at the black student and she reported the incident to IU Campus Bus Service. The bus driver was suspended.
IU spokesperson Chuck Carney told the IDS that Rhodes filed a bias report with the university about the off-campus incident and the Bloomington Police Department is investigating.
Rhodes said the university informed him that the employee had been suspended.
“It’s good to see the university’s reaction to this,” Rhodes told the IDS. “It’s good to see there are consequences for these actions.”
The university needs to continue to react this way, but it doesn’t matter how helpful the university is if students don’t know how to file a bias report.
In a faculty memo from the start of spring semester, Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs Eliza Pavalko asked faculty members to consider adding information about reporting bias incidents to their syllabi because many students are unaware of the resources available to them. This would be an easy way for the university to ensure that this information is in the hands of every student, and every faculty member should follow the vice provost’s recommendation.
Harris said residential assistants, advisors and other university resources are given posters with information about reporting racial bias, but they are not required to post them. He also said that a marketing campaign for bias incidents is in the works. This information should be as accessible as possible, like the extensive advertising for sexual assault resources.
The university is moving in the right direction, but educating students about bias incidents should be a much higher priority. IU needs to prove to students affected by racism that they are valued and heard.
Allyson McBride (she/her) is a sophomore studying English and political science. She is the director of outreach and diversity for College Democrats at IU.