Confronting Bias as a Community that Cares

Hello Huskies,

The semester is successfully underway. This time last year, Dr. Tuitt and I promised to send you periodic updates about bias incidents and referrals at UConn. Today we honor that promise by including details of the bias referrals we received for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Before we get into the details, however, we’d like to remind you why it is so important to routinely address bias incidents: such incidents of hurtful speech and action undermine our commitment to creating an inclusive and caring community. Such speech and actions can hurt people and make them feel isolated at UConn. This not only makes it harder to achieve their full potential at UConn, but also limits what we, as a group, are able to achieve together. We are committed to making UConn a better place to live, learn, and work by addressing any and all bias incidents that negatively impact our campus climate.

Every incident referred to us documents a hurtful moment impacting a member of the UConn community. Not all of those incidents rose to the level of a conduct violation. For example, anonymous postings on white boards that mock identity, people shouting offensive slurs in the middle of the night when they think no one is listening, or anonymously posting derogatory comments online are all harmful incidents, most of which are protected by freedom of speech. In these cases, we are determined to use these incidents to educate the community about their harmful outcomes.

Here is a summary of what was shared with the University (students are welcome to submit a report here):

Bias Chart

Over the course of the 2021 -2022 academic year, 124 bias related referrals were shared with the University. Some of those referrals disclosed multiple incidents, some resulted in code violations. The majority of the referrals resulted in community conversations led by the Dean of Students Office or the Department of Residential Life. We used these moments to provide honest reflections of our University and to rededicate ourselves to improving it.

What should we make of this? Is UConn a community that values free speech? Absolutely. It is the reason we are able to learn and discover as a research university. Some have suggested in these community conversations that maybe our sense of humor is lacking. Can we just not take a joke? Sure, we can.

But is it funny? Is it funny or necessary to demean and remind others of historical oppression through offensive words and actions? Can we instead embrace the privilege of free speech and the desire to care for all members of our community? Can we learn more from one another rather than pushing each other away through actions that I know so many of us regret in hindsight?

Perhaps exploring these questions and sharing our discoveries along the way can be our commitment to each other in the year ahead. We are excited to launch the UConn Faith and Expression Challenge this year. The Bias Action Group that was formed last year will meet next week. Additional opportunities for engagements can be found on the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice @UConn website.

We look forward to the journey ahead and our continued commitment to a caring community.

All our best,

Eleanor JB Daugherty, EdD
Associate Vice President and Dean of Students

Dr. Frank Tuitt
He | Him | His
Office for Diversity and Inclusion
VP | Chief Diversity Officer