BERT Aims to Assure That All Feel Safe on Campus

Alicia Richardson, College Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging officer, wants everyone at Hartwick to know that if they ever feel hurt or unsafe, the Bias Education & Response Team is ready to educate and support them.

“When these things happen on a campus – as they happen on all campuses – this committee is there to serve and respond to the individuals affected or the whole community,” said Richardson.

Known as BERT, the task force serves as a non-disciplinary committee that comes together to assess how the College should respond to bias and hate incidents. 

Members of the team include Biama Charles, deputy DEIB officer; Michael Arno, Title IX/College compliance officer; Gianna Boveri, health promotion coordinator; Shannon France, counselor; Aaron Tolbert, assistant vice president for academic affairs, and John Czarnecki, director of athletics. 

“Loneliness is reaching an all-time high for our current generation of college students, and encouraging belonging at this time is of utmost importance,” said Boveri. “The work we do in BERT is a commitment to ensuring the feeling of belonging and safety on our campus for all Hartwick community members – regardless of race, ability, gender, ethnic background or sexual orientation.”

“The prevalence of bias and discrimination on college campuses significantly impacts students’ mental health, leading to increased levels of distress and dysregulation,” said France. “Addressing these issues is crucial for creating an inclusive environment that supports the well-being of all students.”

Whenever an act of bias or hate is reported, the team reviews the incident and looks for how they can help those involved reckon with what happened. 

Maybe someone isn’t as educated as they should be on what a microaggression is. Someone who uses the wrong pronoun or touches someone’s hair without permission, it’s not about punishing them – it’s about learning what they can do differently, as well as developing restorative justice for the people who were affected.

Alicia Richardson

College Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging officer

That could mean holding a one-on-one meeting, creating workshops focused on specific topics around bias education, or holding community-wide conversations to address acts of hate that affect the whole campus.

But it’s more than just planning what to do after a situation has already occurred – it’s about creating a community where instances of bias and hate are rare.

“We don’t want just be reactive,” said Richardson. “We aim to be proactive, to educate so that these things don’t happen again and again.”

November 28, 2023
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