Racial Profiling Conversation Continues on Campus

Lachlan Johnson

Student activists and Whitman administrators have come to a number of agreements in the past year about how to address racial profiling on campus, but have found it challenging to communicate solutions to the broader campus.

Racial profiling became a prominent issue on campus last year following an incident over Thanksgiving Break where junior Sami Carrillo was allegedly profiled by a Whitman security officer. Alongside other students and faculty of color, Carrillo spoke with administrators multiple times and presented a list of possible solutions that the college could act on. According to Associate Dean for Intercultural Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Kazi Joshua, the college has taken every action that was suggested.

Though only a single complaint about racial profiling was reported to the college last year using the official Grievance Policy, in the spring The Pioneer spoke with multiple students who had stories of being racially profiled on campus. Several of the students spoken to during that investigation said they were either unaware they could report racial profiling with the Grievance Policy or expressed distrust in the process, which dissuaded them from coming forward.

“What we have here at Whitman is a mechanism for reporting all kinds of violations of Whitman norms; that includes Title IX crimes, that includes discrimination…and yet it appeared to us that students didn’t know this could actually be reported,” said Joshua.

Until this fall, misconduct and discrimination was covered by a diverse group of policies and procedures. Most notable among these were the Sexual Misconduct Policy, which covered Title IX violations such as sexual assault, and the Grievance Policy, which covered all forms of harassment based on gender, race, or other categorizations. Some policies overlapped, and procedures could differ depending on whether the reporter and the accused were students, faculty, staff, off-campus individuals, or some combination thereof.

This summer, Associate Dean of Students Juli Dunn, Director of Human Resources Dennis Hopwood and Provost and Dean of Faculty Pat Spencer condensed all of the policies into a single document. The new Grievance Policy has aligned policies for students, faculty, and staff so that they parallel each other and includes flow charts to illustrate the series of steps a complaint may go through during an investigation.

“This was the vision of President Bridges: that there should be the ‘mother of all policies.’ Rather than this assortment of policies that are interdependent and interconnected, we tried to consolidate them all into one [document]. Frankly, it was a real challenge,” said Hopwood.

Racial profiling, sexual assault, and other forms of harassment and discrimination may now be reported through a single method and handled by a single policy. To report an incident, students may fill out one of the yellow forms found around campus or complete a report at whitman.edu/assist.

Dunn and Joshua are searching for ways to raise awareness about the new policy and the ease of reporting. The first way they attempted to do this was through printed booklets of the new Grievance Policy, which were given to every student through the campus mail service.

Unfortunately, many booklets were placed immediately in recycling bins in the post office, raising questions about how to get students to read about and understand reporting and investigative processes before a crisis occurs.

Grievance Policy Recycle Bin

“If you’ve got all these little booklets that end up in a big box at the post office, is it because people read the information?” said Joshua. “Many people do not know…what the policies say. It’s only either when they have been violated or they have violated somebody that suddenly there’s some attention to the policies.”

While administrators work to raise awareness about how policy can address racial profiling, student activists seek to make addressing racial profiling a political cause amongst the student body. Senior Jackie Bonilla was a part of several discussions with the administration last semester, and though she feels positive that change has occurred within the administration, she believes a campus-wide discussion of racial profiling would help move the issue even further.

“One thing I’d really like to see happen is a campus-wide discussion of [racial profiling]. A lot of things are happening within the administration, but they aren’t known [by the wider community],” said Bonilla. “I would like to see an email [from President Murray]…acknowledging that racial profiling is an issue on campus. Without that acknowledgement that this an issue we need to constantly work at, we can’t really move forward.”

Increasing communication with the student body is also a goal for Director of Campus Security Matt Stroe. Security officers have gone through a number of trainings to increase communications skills and cultural awareness, including attending the Power & Privilege Symposium, a workshop with Tamara King last spring, and the Basic Campus Law Enforcement Academy this summer.

“Students want a back-and-forth dialogue; they don’t just want it one way…and if we could do a panel [as part of the Power & Privilege Symposium this year], I think it would be hugely beneficial not only for our office, but for any students who turn up,” said Stroe.

As multiple groups on campus try to engage with the student body about racial profiling, the disconnection of many students from not only the policy but also their investment in the issue has proven frustrating for some.

“It’s not just an educational moment for students who don’t understand racial profiling…” said senior Gladys Gitau, who helped launch the discussion of racial profiling with the administration last fall. “This is affecting our lives and I hope people take this more seriously, past just the educational value of having us explain it to them.”