'Bias incidents' occur in dorms during first week of classes

By Amy Ledig

Students settling back into campus received alerts from the Dean of Students office about two “bias incidents” in Wallace Hall, the sophomore dorm. The first incident, as described in Dean of Students Jim Hoppe’s message in The Daily Piper on Sept. 9, involved “derogatory comments against Jewish and gay people on a room door in a residence hall.” The second incident, which Hoppe detailed in his message sent to the college community on Sept. 11, occurred when “an unknown person drew a swastika on the door of a residence hall room.”In an e-mail after the first incident was reported in The Daily Piper, Hoppe wrote, “I am sad that this situation occurred, and of course have concerns about how it will impact the community, especially since it occurred so early in the year.” The college declined to provide details about the incidents, as the investigation is ongoing.

Residential Hall Director Michael Klitzke and Associate Director of Res Life Peg Olson attended floor meetings on the floors affected, to talk to the residents about what happened and “let them know that it’s not typical this happened so early, but it’s [also] not typical Macalester, not typical of the Res halls,” Olson said.

One question raised by these two incidents has been whether “bias incidents” in the dorms are on the rise. There were several such incidents last school year, particularly involving “sexually graphic graffiti.” Keith Edwards, director of Campus Life, made the argument that rather than being on the rise, bias incidents were being more widely reported.

“These incidents appear periodically but I don’t see any trends in rise or decrease,” Edwards wrote in an email. “My sense is that the campus community is hearing about these incidents more because staff are better trained to respond to these issued by reporting them and the College does a better job of notifying the campus community.”

“A lot of how we raise awareness. has a good effect,” Hoppe said. “Someone who might think this is a funny joke and sees the reactions of their friends might think twice.”

Olson said that when bias incidents involving things written on white boards or doors, such as the ones last week occur, the image is covered over until Security arrives to take a photo and document the situation. Hoppe said that the college’s first priority is to take care of the student impacted, and then follow up with the community. The college works with the student targeted to try to figure out who could be responsible, and investigates further. If the student targeted chooses to go forward with the process, the incident can be referred to the college Harassment Committee, which can then investigate and attempt to resolve the situation.

“We work with residents to help identify who is responsible and to understand the impact these incidents can have on individuals and the community,” Edwards said. “We also ask students to report these issues and not just erase them or cover them up.