MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Madison received reports of more than 70 incidents where someone felt attacked because of their race, religion or gender last spring, according to a report released Thursday.
The university tracks reports of so-called “bias incidents” each semester. The school defines such incidents as negative acts based on age, race, color, creed, religion, political affiliation or gender.
The Division of Student Life released a report Thursday that tallies bias incidents for the spring 2017 semester. It shows the school received 92 reports of 74 incidents.
The university recorded 87 incidents during the summer and fall of 2016 and 66 incidents during the spring and summer of 2016.
Reported spring incidents included physical assaults, online comments, vandalism and verbal threats. The report offers only broad findings and doesn’t provide any details of specific incidents. Associate Dean of Students Kevin Helmkamp told reporters during a conference call to discuss the report that the findings were kept vague to protect students’ identities.
Most of the incidents —36 percent — involved race. Thirteen percent involved national origin and 12 percent involved gender.
The report found 48 percent of the incidents occurred on campus, 12 percent off-campus, 18 percent in dorms and 22 percent online.
The majority of reporters, 44 percent, described themselves as white. The next largest category of reporters — 20 percent — were international students from Asia.
Nearly two-thirds of all reporters were graduate or professional students.
The report didn’t include any data on the offenders’ identity. UW-Madison spokeswoman Meredith Mcglone released limited data via email following the report’s release that indicated 41 perpetrators were unknown; 12 were undergraduates; 10 were faculty or staff; seven were organizations; and four were graduate or professional students.
None of the incidents were charged as hate crimes, although one student was found in violation of non-academic conduct rules. Mcglone said that incident involved a student who tore down a poster supporting President Donald Trump from another student’s dorm room door.
She declined to comment on any specific sanctions, but typically cases like it result in the perpetrator taking an ethics class, writing a reflection paper or writing an apology.
The report said the university officials generally responded to the incidents by having “educational conversations” with the reporter or the offender.
“What we try to do is not to say you’re wrong with what you said but to help them understand a broader perspective,” Helmkamp said. “They are free to hold on to the beliefs and attitudes they verbalize but we have a responsibility as a university to broaden their perspective.”
UW-Madison has been dogged by a string of racially tinged incidents in recent years, including a swastika taped to a Jewish student’s door and a student of color receiving a threatening note.
The university created a diversity program for incoming freshmen students in response, but survey results released earlier this month show minority, disabled and gay students fell they’re having a tougher time surviving on campus than most students.
Still, Bias Response and Advocacy Coordinator Satya Chima said the number of bias incidents tallied in the report is low given that 41,127 students attended the university during the spring semester, signaling that most incidents go unreported.
“I think we clearly have challenges to campus climate that are important to address,” Helmkamp said. “That being said, I look at the programs we have in place … (they’re) all commitments on the part of the university to student success.”
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