Bias Response Line Fails to Deliver Promised Report

Alex Domb and Sayer Devlin
NYU’s Bias Response Line has created a centralized office where all instances of discrimination, bias and harassment could be documented and referred to specific departments.

NYU’s Bias Response Line has not issued a report or released data on the status of its work since its inception in fall 2016, despite repeated promises to release this report per an email to WSN in January as well as an announcement from NYU President Andrew Hamilton.

NYU originally launched the BRL to create a centralized office where all instances of discrimination, bias and harassment could be documented and referred to specific departments. The BRL came directly out of the 2015 listening sessions that sparked an institutional shift on issues of diversity and inclusion.

“The Bias Response Line is designed to enable the university to provide an open forum that helps to ensure that our community is equitable and inclusive,” BRL’s website reads.

Hamilton said a report from the BRL would be forthcoming in an email sent on Nov. 30, 2016 but BRL has not issued a report, released data or updated the NYU community on the status of its work since.

NYU spokesperson John Beckman gave WSN some preliminary data on incidents of bias.

In Beckman’s email to WSN on Dec. 3, he said the BRL has received 173 total reports as of Dec. 1. He added that the BRL has received 63 reports this semester, a significant increase over the 36 reports received in the fall 2017 semester.

After WSN asked for the number of reports the BRL had received, the breakdown of the reports and how many reports had led to disciplinary action, Diversity and Inclusion Case Manager Tera Nakata told WSN in an email in January 2017 that the BRL would release a report to the NYU community by the end of the semester.

“We launched the BRL as a pilot this academic year,” Nakata wrote in the email. “We have consulted with the University Senate Ad Hoc Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force throughout this pilot phase, and will present a full report with the type of data you’re asking about to the university community at the end of this semester.”

On Dec. 3, after WSN reached out to various members of the Office of Equal Opportunity, which oversees the Bias Response Line, NYU spokesman John Beckman told WSN that the report will be published early in the spring 2018 semester.

In his email, Beckman did not immediately clarify why the report had not yet been released to the NYU community. NYU has not announced the altered timeline of the BRL’s report in any public statement to the community.

The BRL has additionally been unclear about its progress in addressing a bias report initially covered by WSN last month.

On Nov. 8., Steinhardt junior August Enzer reported NYU Psychology Professor Edgar Coons to the BRL for allegedly making transphobic remarks in one his classes. As of today, despite reaching out to the BRL multiple times and being told that the matter was still being reviewed on Nov. 21, he has still not heard from the BRL on what, if any, discipline, Coons may face.

“I am very frustrated,” Enzer said. “At this point I submitted the complaint almost a month ago with nothing [to show, in response to his complaints].”

Multiple representatives of the Office of Equal Opportunity have been unwilling to provide information regarding procedures within the office. WSN has contacted four members of the OEO, none of whom have provided information on their department’s procedures despite several attempts to contact them both over email and in person.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Dec. 4 print edition. Email Alex Domb and Sayer Devlin at [email protected] 

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