College’s DEI efforts include bias reporting system, workshop on ‘Fatphobia’

The Williams College bias reporting system defines bias incidents as ‘intentional or unintentional.’

Campus events include workshops on ‘Anti-Racism in STEM+’ and ‘Trans Poetics.’

Event submissions recently closed for Claiming Williams, a day observed annually by Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. 

On Claiming Williams Day, “the campus engages in events and discussions about building and sustaining a more inclusive community” in lieu of classes. 2022 events included Take a Stance & Push Past Your Comfort: A Faculty Workshop for Anti-Racism in STEM+,” “Trans Poetics,” and “Fatphobia and Body Liberation.”

Williams College hosted its first Claiming Williams Day because of “a series of racist and sexist incidents in January 2008,” according to the event website. 

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In February, Williams College will host events around the theme “Justice & Institutional Power.” 

“Recent and upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decisions are worrying reminders of the institutional powers that are beyond our control but affect all aspects of our lives,” the website reads. 

Other DEI efforts at Williams College include the “Bias Incident Reporting” form maintained by the office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

The office’s website defines bias incidents as “the result of either intentional or unintentional conduct that causes harm to individuals or groups because of their race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, sex, ethnicity, age, or disability or socioeconomic, marital, or veteran status.” 

Campus Reform has reported on challenges to bias reporting systems at colleges and universities. In October, the Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) sent demand letters to 12 universities, eight of which addressed bias reporting systems. According to one letter, these systems “chill freedom of expression.” 

In December, Campus Reform reported that the University of Maine updated its bias reporting system in response to SLF’s demand letter. The updated website for the Bias Response Team, which handles reports, includes a link to campus speech policies and clarifies that reports won’t result in investigation or discipline for protected speech. 

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Williams College recently created an Anti-Racism Campus Task Force in response to finding Confederate graffiti and “the N-word“ written on campus property. 

An ad hoc task force is meeting to develop a permanent task force according to a statement by Williams College President Maud Mandel. Membership in the permanent task force “will include students, faculty, staff and administrators.”

The statement says that, “[l]ater this semester,” the college will develop “a plan of action.” 

The Williams College Office of Communications told Campus Reform that there are no task force developments beyond Mandel’s statement. 

Reports, committees, and other resources from the office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion focus on the college’s past. The most recent diversity report listed is from 2015. The Committee on Diversity and Community meets annually for “recommendations on both curricular and extracurricular matters with the intention of promoting better understanding between and among groups on campus.” 

“For the past few years, the Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC) has discussed ways to learn about, reflect on, and acknowledge Williams College’s histories,” the website says. “[T]his year the CDC is charged with comprehensively engaging with Williams’s histories with the goal of imagining and crafting practices of communally accountable institutional memory that reflects the complexity and diversity of the College’s histories.”

Campus Reform contacted Williams College, Mandel, and the office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.