New CARE-Net program will allow students to report biased incidents

May 3, 2009

Mustang Daily

Cal Poly is developing an outlet for  students to report grievances in order to foster a safer and healthier learning environment. 

CARE-Net is a university-wide initiative. It is essentially a forum for students to report discriminatory incidents. CARE-Net will likely be launched later in May as a pilot program.

“The university is interested in hearing about students’ experiences at Cal Poly and the university is committed to an inclusive community,” CARE-Net organizer Patricia Ponce said.

The CARE-Net team defines a biased incident as “any speech, act, or harassing incident or action taken by a person or group that is perceived to be malicious or discriminatory toward another person or group based on bias or prejudice relating to such characteristics as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, age or mental or physical disability.”

Under the CARE-Net umbrella, 12 students, staff and faculty will serve as campus advocates. Any Cal Poly student who thinks they have been a victim of biased or unjust treatment can report their issue to the university by contacting one of these advocates. The CARE-Net staff will then develop a plan of action in response to the report.

Students will be able to report incidents online as well through EthicsPoint, a third-party entity not associated with Cal Poly. The option to remain anonymous will be available with Ethics Point, which notifies Cal Poly of the reported incident. According to Ponce, EthicsPoint is used by 250 institutions across the country.

“We want (CARE-Net) to be a resource for students’ voices to be heard by the university,” CARE-Net organizer Terrance Harris said. “We want students to be able to voice any issues that they are having.”

According to Ponce, the CARE-Net assignment started in January. President Warren Baker and Provost Robert Koob asked Student Affairs and Academic Affairs to develop an advocacy group for students.

While some of the groundwork for this project was laid years ago, it gained momentum following the discriminatory incidents that occurred at the Crops House , according to Harris. 

In October, a Confederate flag and noose were allegedly displayed outside the Crops House,  an on-campus residence. 

There are about 25 people involved with CARE-Net, including the 12 campus advocates. Many campus offices were consulted during the creating of CARE-Net including the Employment Equity Office, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, the Dean of Students Office and Housing and Residential Life.

Protecting students from biased teachers will be an integral aspect of CARE-Net’s responsibilities.

“All students have had that teacher who isn’t politically correct or is hurtful in their actions or words,” recreation administration junior and future campus advocate Jessica Cresci said. 

“Some students get really offended by that type of teacher and won’t do as well in the class as they could.”

CARE-Net will give students the ability to confront teachers in a safe, anonymous manner. Reports will be filed and used to help identify behavioral trends regarding teachers or staff.

The pilot program starting in May should offer the university and students a glimpse of the program’s potential effectiveness.

“This is not groundbreaking stuff,” Harris said. 

“This is the type of program that has been implemented at other schools. We want to make sure that there are resources out there for the students.”

Schools: California Polytechnic State University Cases: California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly): Bias Reporting System Targets “Politically Incorrect” Professors