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 Adil Khan, student co-chair of the new Task Force on Hate and Bias, exhorts students to be tolerant as Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl (left) and Dean of Students Karen Kenney look on. (Bonnie Powell photo)

Student-initiated effort will combat harassment and hate

– UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl today (Wednesday, Sept. 10) formally commissioned a joint student-administration task force to recommend actions that the campus can take to combat incidents driven by racial, ethnic, religious and gender hatred and intolerance.

The establishment of the Chancellor's Task Force on Hate and Bias is one of several steps sought by a coalition of diverse students who last spring convened a special town hall meeting with the chancellor to share concerns and address the issue.

"With the establishment of this task force we are emphasizing that this campus will not tolerate hate-driven actions directed at any members of our community," said Berdahl. "I commend our students for their caring and determined effort to help us create a safer, more tolerant and welcoming environment."

The coalition includes a wide array of communities including African American, Latino, Asian-American, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer) students.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, they said, they or their friends have experienced an increase in harassing graffiti, racist and anti-Semitic vandalism, verbal taunting and other occurrences. Berdahl and the students emphasized that these kinds of incidents are not unique to the Berkeley campus, but they said it is important to speak out loudly against them so that there can be no question that they will not be tolerated.

"Acts of hate and ignorance require us to step back from our separate communities and realize that the well-being of individuals is tied to the well-being of the larger community," said Adil Khan, the student co-chair of the new task force. "What's powerful about this effort is not our belief that we can erase hate, but that we can stand together as one to say we will not tolerate hate," he said.

The task force was formally commissioned at a press conference on the Sproul Hall steps today.

Following the spring town hall meeting several initial steps were taken, including providing information on student photo ID cards about how to report crimes, the establishment of an ad-hoc committee co-chaired by a student and the dean of students, and a mass poster campaign. One of the posters reads: "This is Bear Territory: Hate is Not Tolerated."

The 30-member task force will soon begin working on several key objectives. These include efforts to both address issues of campus climate and concrete efforts to improve campus safety. They include:

  • Identifying safety concerns and issues.
  • Updating the Student Code of Conduct to specifically address hate-related incidents.
  • Creating a comprehensive system for reporting and responding to harassment and hate-related incidents.
  • Formally evaluating the current climate on campus, encouraging dialogue to improve understanding.
  • Encouraging awareness, education and outreach, including enhancing opportunities for dialogue to improve understanding of the root causes of hate and bias.
In addition to 16 student members, the committee will include the dean of students, faculty members, community members, and representatives from the campus police department, University Health Services, Gender Equity Center and other offices that provide student support services.

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