Campus Climate Response Team

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Campus Climate Response Team (CCRT) saw an increase of 713 percent in the number of “bias incidents” reported in the 2013-2014 school year as compared to the 2012-2013 school year, largely as a result of two events hosted by the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT). 

According to the report, the CCRT received 670 reports in the 2013-2014 school year, compared to 94 reports in the previous school year.

“The sevenfold increase stems in large part from reports on two high-profile events sponsored by a student group,” the report said.

According to the report, 89 percent of the incident alerts made to the CCRT in the past school year were a result of the two events — YCT’s “Affirmative Action Bake Sale,” which they held in Sept. 2013, and the group’s “Catch an Illegal Immigrant,” which was planned for a month later and ultimately cancelled. 

Students, faculty, staff, parents, visitors and alumni can file reports to the CCRT. 

“Another reason for the number of reports could be increased awareness on campus of the CCRT and its reporting function,” the report said.

According to the report, the “Affirmative Action Bake Sale” led to 25 individual reports. Club members sold baked goods at different prices to students of different races and genders to protest UT’s race-conscious admissions policy.

YCT’s planned “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” event in November 2013 led to 572 reports of bias. In the event description, students were told they would win $25 gift cards if they could catch individuals walking around campus who were wearing “illegal immigrant” signs.

President William Powers Jr. condemned the event, which also sparked a protest. 

“Our students, faculty and the entire University work hard both to promote diversity and engage in a respectful exchange of ideas,” Powers said. “This Wednesday event does not reflect that approach or commitment.”

Ultimately, YCT cancelled the event.

“[Club members are concerned] that the University will retaliate against them and that the protest against the event could create a safety issue for our volunteers,” then-YCT Chairman Lorenzo Garcia said in a statement.

Due to the high number of reports regarding the two events, members of the CCRT separated bias incidents into two categories based on how many reports they received. The report said 67 other incidents garnered a total of 73 reports. 

Those who reported incidents were asked to choose a response they would prefer. For incidents that attracted fewer than 10 reports, 36 percent of respondents asked for diversity education and 26 percent asked for increased awareness and information gathering. In response to the “Affirmative Action Bake Sale” and “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” events, 94 percent and 92 percent of respondents, respectively, expressed a preference for disciplinary action.

According to the report, of the 67 incidents with less than 10 reports, 42 percent were in response to concerns of race and ethnicity bias. 48 percent of reports involved verbal harassment/slurs.

The report included examples of incidents reported to the CCRT. The examples include, “faculty and student commentary in the classroom perceived as derogatory and insensitive,” “graffiti/vandalism on and off campus based on race, religion, and/or sexual orientation” and “hostile and insensitive treatment or interaction with a campus department/unit.”

The Campus Climate Response Team, or CCRT, released its first report Thursday of reported bias-related incidents that occurred from August 2012 to August 2013, which revealed nearly half of the reports filed involved race and ethnicity.

According to the report, 94 complaints were filed with the response team as a result of 82 separate incidents of bias on campus. The report states the most commonly reported incident involving bias was “the use of verbal harassment or slurs,” which constituted 47 percent of all filed reports.

According to Ryan Miller, associate director of Campus Diversity and Strategic Initiatives, the response team acts as a central point of contact for any student who is involved with or witnesses any incident involving bias.

“[Bias instances are] any instances against individuals or groups or offense that’s motivated wholly or in part [by] an individual’s or groups’ identity,” Miller said. “We’re talking about the categories that are in the non-discriminatory policy, like disability, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, etc.” 

Miller said the report is part of the response team’s efforts to provide “diversity education” to the community.

“For me, I hope that the report itself is an educational opportunity and that all students and staff on campus who aren’t aware of CCRT on campus can become aware,” Miller said.

The response team reports to Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement. Vincent said he thinks the team benefits the entire campus community through their actions.

“The first Campus Climate Trend Report produced by the CCRT offers an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to reflect on our campus climate and culture,” Vincent said. “Creating an inclusive campus is a responsibility for each of us at the University, and we hope this report prompts dialogue and reflection as we work together to achieve this goal.”

According to Miller, when a report is filed, a “lead team” of three administrators — including Miller — reviews the report and discusses possible courses of action.

“Our priority in all cases is reaching out to the individual who filed the report and doing whatever we can to provide and offer support for that individual,” Miller said. “There is not a certain playbook for each incident or even each type of incident. We really evaluate the options in all cases.”

Miller said the response team also tries to provide comprehensive diversity education to individuals who were mentioned in reports and to the campus community.

“We have a lot of educational conversations after reports have been filed because usually it gives us an opportunity to knock on a door or invite someone to come in for a conversation with us about the intent and impact behind a certain incident,” Miller said.