By Deane Morrison
The campus Bias Response and Referral Network (BRRN) has formed a student and faculty advisory group, which met for the first time Feb. 16. At the meeting, BRRN members briefed the 13-member advisory group on how the network operates and invited their active participation in the work of combating bias and its effects. The members were selected through an application and review process. The group includes four faculty members, four graduate and professional students, and five undergraduate students.
We hope, as the BRRN, to be able to call on them and tap them for advice, especially for complex or unique bias incidents,” said BRRN member Teddie Potter, director of inclusivity and diversity in the School of Nursing. “Also, we hope they will bring to us any emerging trends or incidents that haven’t been reported.
BRRN’s approximately 20 members come mostly from the ranks of staff; the advisory group brings in faculty and students and was created after consultations with U governance groups, where the idea was suggested.
Laura Knudson, assistant vice provost for student advocacy and support, said the idea of the advisory group has, and will continue to, evolve, but that it fills a need to have more faculty and students engaged in how the BRRN responds to bias incidents.
“The role of this group will change and expand according to need,” Knudson said. “Today, one question on the agenda is how BRRN can begin to build trust with students and faculty.”
While the BRRN meets every other week, the advisory group will convene once a semester, plus other meetings as needed, Potter said. The group is not planning to appoint a chair.
Ann Freeman, a senior consultant in University Relations and a BRRN member reminded the group that President Kaler had charged BRRN with its mission just a year earlier, in February 2016.
“We’ve had over 75 incidents since we began this work a year ago, but that number does not reflect everything happening on campus,” she told the advisory group. “Most of the incidents reported to us so far have been anonymous. For example, an offensive flyer or piece of graffiti was seen, or people were overheard on a bus saying derogatory things.”
“The work of the BRRN is still emerging,” noted Potter. “I would like to crack the idea of ‘Minnesota niceness’ that implies that [such incidents] don’t happen here.”
After a second meeting, created to meet with students unable to attend the larger meeting, Vidhya Shanker, a PhD student in CEHD said, "It was refreshing and energizing to see so many students, particularly undergraduate students from groups that often experience bias-based incidents, brainstorming together at the very first meeting about how to ensure that others find BRRN accessible and helpful, until perhaps someday it's no longer necessary."