The Diversity and Inclusion Office is expanding its net to catch campus discrimination in an attempt to record more nuanced forms of prejudice.
The office broadened the number of discriminatory categories offered on its incident report form, including pregnancy, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, veteran status and socioeconomic status.
Mark Blackburn, director of the Diversity and Inclusion Office, said the former incident form included categories on race and gender and the new categories hope to account for commonly overlooked forms of discrimination.
“This is a matter of supporting those students who feel that they are marginalized and oppressed in the institution by being who they want to be,” Blackburn said. “If individuals do not feel like they have an outlet, you can see how things start eating at them and they explode.”
He said he wanted to test the common notion that discrimination does not happen on a campus like Augustana.
“I just want to give a file for some of the complaints we have,” Blackburn said. “That way, when we are in meetings and we are presenting on the campus climate survey, we have some data to go back on and say we have a lot of these complaints from faculty and staff and students.”
Blackburn said he wants to use the data to create better dialogue around discrimination on campus by focusing on educational programs or support systems for students who feel marginalized.
“People say we do not have race problems here, well, actually, we do,” Blackburn said. “In the 11 years I’ve been here, I always heard, ‘that does not happen here.’ Now we can really see if it does.”
English professor Darcie Rives-East said discrimination happens everywhere, even on liberal campuses. She attended Grinnell University, considered “one of the most liberal, left-leaning in America,” Rives-East said. While there, African-American students staged a protest because they felt marginalized and silenced, she said.
“Maybe people assume institutions of higher learning are liberal havens that are enlightened more so than other spaces in our society, but still there is prejudice, ignorance and bias in academia,” Rives-East said. “Just because they are institutions of higher learning does not mean they are immune.”
Rives-East said in the past she has had international students ask her to write letters of recommendation when they were transferring to a different school because they felt isolated at Augustana. She said she has also had female students talk about how they felt overruled by men in extracurricular activities.
Junior Bailey Nelson said she thinks the additions are beneficial for students, especially those who feel they do not have a current outlet.
“I think it was a good change in that it will allow people to feel more comfortable coming forward with incidences and not feel like it qualified a complaint,” Nelson said. “It really would allow for more conversation on discrimination beyond just race and sex.”
The new categories are far from Title IX violations, but they are things the campus should recognize, Blackburn said.
After a student submits an incident form, the office will follow its normal procedure of conducting an investigation, reconciling the two parties and inviting awareness speakers if necessary.
The office also added the incident form to the Diversity and Inclusion Office’s website. Previously, students could only find it on the Dean of Students Office’s page.
“I just wanted to make these available for students because I think some students feel there is nothing available for them,” Blackburn said. “We are doing this because we would be doing you all—the students—a disservice if we did not teach you about the differences in the world and prepare you for a diverse world. If you are not prepared, we failed.”