St. Thomas adopts new hate-crime policies

St. Thomas adopts new hate-crime policies

The University of St. Thomas has a history of publicly and unambiguously condemning hate crimes when they occur on our campus.  An important measure of any university is how it responds to such crimes.  

The racist notes found in John Paul II Residence Hall last month were a source of much pain and sadness. And yet, this university's response – including the Nov. 1 march and forum on Foley Plaza – has been a source of hope and pride.   The sight of hundreds upon hundreds of our students, staff and faculty marching through the arches that day is something I will never forget.  This kind of response, as I said at the forum, is the real St. Thomas.

Today I am announcing a more formal response to such acts of hatred and intolerance. I have approved two new initiatives: "Hate Crimes and Bias-Motivated Incidents Policy" and "Procedures for Implementation of the Hate Crimes and Bias-Motivated Incidents Policy."   The policies set forth in these documents are effective immediately. The new documents strengthen but do not replace the existing Statement on Offensive Behavior, which remains in effect.

Although they are being adopted within weeks of the John Paul II incidents, work on these two new documents began a full year ago, in fall 2006.   Over the course of the past 12 months and many meetings, a task force of both graduate and undergraduate students, and faculty and staff, conducted research, drafted and refined the documents.

The work was done under the direction of our Office of Institutional Diversity and Dean of Students Office. Office of Institutional Diversity Executive Director Dr. Lawrence Potter and Dean of Students Karen Lange co-chaired the task force, which was charged with developing a policy and implementation procedures on hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents.  The creation of a task force was announced in a March 14 Bulletin Today article.

A key portion of the new policy states that the university "strives to meet the highest standards of respect and civility that are both implicit and explicit in its vision, mission and convictions. It is the university's goal that no member of the university community shall be subject to any physical or verbal harassment, abuse or violence based on the individual's race, color, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin, religion or physical or mental disability."

In addition to the policy statement, the documents define hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents, how such crimes and incidents can be reported, who will conduct the investigations, and penalties for such behavior.

The new policies will appear on several campus Web sites, including the Employee Handbook on the Human Resources site, and the Student Handbook on the Dean of Students site. They will be included in printed versions of those handbooks, and will be reviewed at all future employee and student orientation programs.

These are important documents and will serve us well. I would like to thank the students, staff and faculty members who served on the task force for their time and excellent work.  

Members of the task force, in addition to Karen Lange and Dr. Lawrence Potter, are: Dr. Susan Alexander, President's Office; Sister Sharon Howell, Dean of Students Office; Denise Dieffenbach, University Diversity Advisory Council; Edna Comedy, Human Resources; Jim Winterer, University Relations; Dan Meuwissen and Mike Barrett, Public Safety; Cari Fealy, Residence Life; Julie Ann Williams, Undergraduate Student Government; Douglas Jetton and Clarence "Chris" Clark, Graduate, Professional and Adult Student Services Council; Malik Watkins, Black Empowerment Student Alliance; Chelsea Belden, HANA; Jennifer Vogel, Globally Minded Students Association; Alfonso Wenker, Allies Student Club; Gavin Grivna, Residence Hall Association; Corrine Carvalho, Luann Dummer Center for Women ; and Rob Riley, Faculty Senate.