By Natalie Woods
The community was alerted via email earlier this month about two separate acts of bias on campus. One act was the placement of a swastika in a bathroom stall, the other was an inappropriate comment made about a female in a residence hall.
Chief Peter Carnes of Campus Police said these incidents are taken seriously by College officials.
“In my time here we have probably four or five reports a year…When it’s reported we take it very serious, we don’t just treat it as vandalism,” he said.
Depending on the specific details of a case, an act of bias could be considered a hate crime. A hate crime is a criminal offense committed against a person or property which is motivated in whole or part by the offender’s bias. Bias is a performed negative opinion or attitude toward a person or group of persons based on their race, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity or national origin.
“We have a team which we meet regularly. Basically we follow up on the reports, we have a response protocol, and part of that is that we investigate, photograph the area, interview any witnesses, we will talk to people on the area,” Carnes said.
The Bias Incident Prevention & Response Team (BIPRT) was created in 2010 to formulate plans to raise awareness, assess reported incidents and implement official responses to acts of bias and/or hate on campus.
“Personally, I have no patience for [bias],” Carnes said. “It’s unnecessary, it’s hurtful, it isn’t fair that one person can use that media to attack someone else. You can’t say it was an accident, it’s a direct act, it’s an overt act and it’s a problem.”
Offenders of a misdemeanor hate crime involving no bodily injury could face a fine of no more than $5,000 dollars and be sentenced to a prison or house of correction for up to two and a half years.
The court may also order restitution of the victim in any amount up to three times the value of the property damage suffered by the owners of the property, according to Massachusetts General Law.
“Graffiti itself…that’s not a hate crime, that’s not a bias, but if it’s directed at someone or is a symbol of hate or has some bad buzz words, that would have to be a bias incident,” Carnes said.
These incidents have led to a photo campaign to combat micro-aggression on campus.
In cases such as this, Student Government Association (SGA) Senior Events Chair Michaela D’Ambrosio said people need to think about how their actions will be perceived.
“People might not realize it, but certain language they use or comments that they make are just inherently micro-aggression against somebody for their race, or gender or sexual orientation. Something you might not think is harmful, can actually mean a lot more than you think it should,” she said.
D’Ambrosio said people need to be more mindful about the language they are using and work to create a more inclusive community.
“To single anybody out or make someone feel less-than is not what Stonehill prides itself on, so it’s something we need to, as an entire student body, change,” she said.
The SGA Executive Board works hard to combat these issues, D’Ambrosio said.
“During senate times, (11:30 a.m. every Monday) the Executive Board will sit down with the senators and anybody from the greater Stonehill body. I think that can sometimes be an undervalued resource because not everybody knows about it and not everybody will go. For people who are concerned about certain things happen on in our community, it’s a great platform to be able to go and discuss that with both students and staff members,” she said.
For immediate assistance or for an emergency, contact Campus Police at x5555. Reporting an instance of bias can be done online by be submitting a form directly to the Director of Intercultural Affairs, Connie Cabello, at ccabello@ stonehill.edu or to diversity@ stonehill.edu.