Ryan Miller

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. 

Government senior Bryan Davis speaks at a rally held in response to a hate crime in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue Wednesday afternoon. The rally was organized by the Black Student Alliance and held on the 50th anniversary of King’s “I have a dream” speech. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Another student has reported a West Campus balloon attack, according to a statement submitted to the Campus Climate Response Team.

The report was filed nearly two weeks after government senior Bryan Davis received national media attention after he said he was targeted by a “bleach bomb” balloon. Similar allegations were reported in the fall of 2012. Ryan Miller, an educational administration graduate student and associate director of Campus Diversity and Strategic Initiatives, said this most recent incident occurred Saturday night, but he was unable to provide information about the location, the name of the victim or contents of the balloon — whether water or bleach.

Miller said the investigation is ongoing.

“Each case is unique,” Miller said. “If there’s an incident that requires a criminal investigation, we work with UTPD and the Austin Police Department.”

Otherwise, Miller said, incidents violating institutional policy are taken up with the Dean of Students. 

Davis, the victim of the previous balloon attack on Aug. 22, wrote an op-ed for the Burnt Orange Report on Friday in which he claimed that University and police officials made quick and uninformed statements to “scoot the [race] issue under the rug.” Davis wrote the op-ed in response to a University statement that said the balloons used in his attack and the 2012 incidents were likely filled with water. 

“Unfortunately, both the report and the statement given by UT are a result of poor investigation and utter negligence in handling the details of my case,” Davis said in the op-ed. “From the very beginning, I have consistently stated in all three reports I have given to the UTPD and APD that the bleach balloon did not directly strike me but had landed approximately 4-5 feet away from me.” 

According to Davis, the only liquid that made contact with his body did so on his right leg and nowhere else. In the op-ed, Davis said UTPD’s sending his clothing to an independent forensic lab for further testing will not yield any new developments. 

“UTPD and APD are analyzing ‘evidence’ that tells no more about the assault that happened than does anything else from or on my body except the calf-area of my right leg,” Davis said in the op-ed. 

In their coverage of the balloon attack, Davis argues, several media organizations wrongly reported his story and printed inaccurate information. Specifically, Davis mentions a statement given to The Daily Texan by APD public information officer Cpl. David Boyd. Davis could not be reached for comment.

Boyd told the Texan an official APD investigation could not proceed without first receiving a sworn statement from Davis. In the op-ed, Davis said the investigation was held up because the detective assigned to his case was out of the office. Davis said the detective assigned to his case could not speak for Boyd’s statement about needing to hear an official report from Davis. 

“Ultimately, the blame must be shared between The Daily Texan, UT’s Dr. Greg Vincent [vice president of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement] and the APD for failing to be accurate in their interpretation of details and evidence from the case,” Davis said in the op-ed. “I would rather the case go cold from a dead end than public officials making quick and uninformed statements to hurriedly scoot the issue under the rug.”

Davis said whether or not the liquid used to fill the balloon was actually bleach is “irrelevant” to the larger issues that “encouraged” the attack. 

“The underlying issue is the cultural ignorance and insensitivity that encouraged these assaults in the first place,” Davis said. “When minorities in an area have historically been discriminated against and targeted because of the color of their skin then perpetrators of an attack had better consider how their prank or game might be perceived by the minority they intend on targeting.”

When a student sees derogatory graffiti on campus, Ryan Miller hopes to hear about it in his inbox. 

Miller, associate director of Campus Diversity and Strategic Initiatives and an educational administration graduate student, is one of three lead team members behind the Campus Climate and Response Team. The team, which was publicly launched in March 2012, helps connect students who report incidents of bias with resources and gathers information about campus culture. 

The Campus Climate and Response Team is composed of 12 administrators who represent various departments involved in bias incidents, including administrators from the Gender and Sexuality Center, the Multicultural Engagement Center and UT Police Department officers. 

Miller said his team receives roughly 15 to 20 reports per month during the fall and spring semesters, and those reports typically involve incidents including derogatory graffiti, verbal harassment and slurs or parties with racial or otherwise derogatory themes. He said the team will occasionally hear reports of assaults coupled with slurs and social media harassment on UT course-specific Facebook pages.

Miller said reports of policy violations require contacting legal authorities or another appropriate sources within the administration, but other demonstrations of bias suggest a need for education.

“What we’re trying to do at CCRT involves a balancing act,” Miller said. “We protect free speech and defend that right, but we also value an inclusive environment where all students and employees can be productive and learn and work free from discrimination.”

Sherri Sanders, associate vice president for Campus Diversity and Strategic Initiatives, serves as a liaison between the lead team and as vice president for diversity and community engagement. Sanders said she feels the personalized nature of the response team is part of what makes it a valuable resource. 

“This is a large institution, and a complex one,” Sanders said. “Oftentimes, people don’t know where to go to report an incident, but they also don’t have the chance to connect with the institution. The CCRT gives people a place to go.” 

Despite the team’s efforts, Miller said he and the team are aware they do not have a comprehensive picture of bias incidents on campus. 

“We know bias incidents of all kind are underreported,” Miller said. “This isn’t just an issue for UT. It’s an issue for higher education nationally, and for society as a whole. We are trying to build trust and encourage people to report the things they experience.” 

Miller also said measuring the success of the team’s anti-bias efforts can be difficult. 

“There are several different ways to measure success, but I don’t know that any of them are adequate,” Miller said. “We’re working to create a more inclusive campus climate, where everyone feels like they have a place at the table. That’s a process more than a goal, but it’s certainly something we’re hoping to address.” 

Plan II freshman Matt Green said he has not heard of the response team, but is glad such a resource exists. 

“I’m not at all familiar with a bias hotline,” Green said, “but I do think it’s very important to have something like that — even though I haven’t experienced any bias myself, other people certainly might have.”

Published on March 18, 2013 as "Team responds to reports of bias, derogatory slurs". 

Concerned students will host an open forum Tuesday night to discuss the issues of racism and oppression in the UT area and search for ways to combat them.

The decision to hold the forum came after recently reported incidents of bias in the UT area, including the throwing of a bleach-filled water balloon at a group of students, the use of racial slurs in West Campus and the use of the term “Middle Eastern” by UT officials when describing the accent of Friday’s still unidentified bomb threat caller. The forum will feature several student panelists describing their experiences with bias while at UT. It will focus on bias in the forms of gender, sexual orientation and racial discrimination, as well as discrimination in the form of Islamophobia.

Anthropology freshman Taylor Carr will be one of the panelists speaking at the event.

Carr said she was called a racial slur while visiting UT last spring and was nearly hit by an unidentified assailant with a bleach-filled water balloon while walking through West Campus last month, a type of racially motivated attack she calls “white-washing.”

“We experience so much racism in West Campus and in Austin in general,” she said. “We just need to do something about it.”

Lucian Villasenor, Mexican American studies senior and co-planner of the event, said he believes it will be more effective than similar events in the past because it is being put on by students, not the University administration.

“If there is going to be any kind of change, it’s going to come [from the students],” Villasenor said. “It’s going to require action from us to make them pass a policy or make any real change.”

Although there are currently more than a dozen organizations battling campus discrimination at UT, including the newly developed Campus Climate Response Team and the Gender and Sexuality Center, the students organizing the forum said it is not enough, as incidents of bias still seem to occur regularly.

Ryan Miller, Campus Climate Response Team lead member and senior program coordinator for UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, said the University’s initiatives are effective in lessening campus discrimination, but bias is still an issue. He said the organization of the students is a move in the right direction.

“I think it’s very smart to have that unity, and I think that the Campus Climate Response Team would be very happy to see students and employees coming together and formulating their own response to campus bias, to using their own voices,” Miller said.

Miller said the level of campus bias that exists is a very difficult thing to gauge, but he does think UT is reducing it overall.

“When you take kind of the long view, there has been a lot of progress over the years,” Miller said. “It’s not always as quickly as we would like, but if you do look back a few years, you can see a change.”

The forum, titled “Student Speak Out: Racism and Oppression,” will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday in UTC 2.112A and is open to anyone who would like to attend.

Printed on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 as: Students rally against prejudice

Commissioned to investigate racial and discriminatory incidents on campus, the Campus Climate and Response Team is the new liaison between the University community and the administration.

The CCRT was publicly launched last week as the latest unit of the Campus Diversity and Strategic Initiatives as a University-wide resource team that will develop and facilitate appropriate responses to address “biased incidents” that may impact the stability of the community, said Ryan Miller, CCRT associate director for CDSI.

The team was created at the request of President William Powers Jr. after a report was issued by the Campus Climate Response Work Group. The work group worked with the Diversity and Equity Student Advisory Council and other student leaders to develop the team.

Council member Shannon Allport, biology senior and senior student associate for the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, said the CCRT is answering the call from students who asked for more direct attention of discriminatory offenses.

“Quite frankly, there has historically been a number of discrimination and harassment incidents on the UT campus,” Allport said. “There is a significant disconnect between learning about diversity in the classroom and appreciating diversity while practicing equality in social and professional settings outside the classroom.”

The response team was created last year, but the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement decided on the public launch this year. Miller said they wanted to encourage the community to learn more about the team and are promoting it as the program individuals can go to for assistance with their concerns about discrimination.

“The response team will help connect the dots across campus when racial and discriminatory biases arise,” he said. “It will allow for representatives from across the University to share resources in dealing with these incidents.”

The CCRT will focus on investigating specific reported incidents and provide support services for the individuals involved, Miller said. Other core functions include providing education on similar incidents and evaluating the response process to improve crisis management.

Sherri Sanders, associate vice president for campus diversity and strategic initiatives, said CCRT will play a role in creating a more inclusive campus culture while also looking at patterns of reports that impact individuals within the community.

Miller said he believes the program will create a baseline to compare incident reports and statistics in the future. He said tracking these numbers will allow for a more comprehensive and accurate sense of the campus climate and what can be done to improve it.

Psychology junior Ashley Hall, co-director of queer activist student organization StandOut, said a program like the CCRT is long overdue whether or not discriminatory incidents are on the rise.

“While the current state of diversity and equality at UT is the best it’s ever been, there are still issues with racist, sexist and homophobic commentary from professors and student organizations,” Hall said. “It seems the program was created to address issues and incidents that have been ongoing but not well-addressed before now.”

Members of the response team include staff from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, the Division of Student Affairs and University Operations.

Miller said the response team will take more of a reactive approach rather than a proactive one for the time being.

“Our focus is to establish the best response to reported incidents, including help from our representatives across campus that are engaged in diversity education,” he said. “We are tailoring our efforts to improve the campus climate as a response team, but we will eventually initiate our own efforts to continue promoting an inclusive environment at the University.”

Printed on Monday, April 9, 2012 as: Team to investigate discriminatory events launches on campus