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Updated 10:00 AM March 27, 2006
 

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'Expect Respect' to build awareness

U-M is launching a campus-wide program aimed at fostering a respectful and inclusive community, and raising awareness about hate crimes and bias-related incidents.

The program, Expect Respect, includes a comprehensive Web site, posters and buttons, as well as a number of events and programs developed by students and University units. The Web site and an accompanying phone hotline make it easier for community members to report hate crimes and bias incidents to the University.

"It is everyone's responsibility to help create a welcoming community," President Mary Sue Coleman wrote in a letter posted to the site at www.urespect.umich.edu. "Our accomplishments as a University can only be fully realized if we work together to create an inclusive environment that values and celebrates both our similarities and our differences."

E. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, adds: "By creating an environment in which we can freely share our own experiences, perspectives and beliefs with each other, we will not only encourage robust classroom discussions, but also create the circumstances where we can find commonalities, build trust and create enduring friendships that cross many of society's traditional boundaries."

Susan Eklund, associate vice president and dean of students, says she is encouraged by the response from student organizations and notes that a number of groups already have embraced the Expect Respect concept and planned related events and programs this semester. Student groups and University offices can request buttons and download copies of the flyers and other materials for their own use.

"This Web site is a terrific beginning," Eklund says, "and I expect it will grow over time as more events are planned and more resources become available. We encourage student groups and University departments to plan programs and activities using the materials available on this site. If you have scheduled events related to the topic of creating a diverse and inclusive community, please message us at respect@umich.edu so we may incorporate your events into our online calendar. We also welcome your ideas and feedback about the site."

Anthony Walesby, assistant provost and senior director of the Office of Institutional Equity, worked on the Expect Respect program along with Eklund and several other staff members and students. He notes that the reporting hotline, (734) 615-2427 (BIAS), creates a simple and centralized mechanism for community members to report hate crimes and bias incidents. An online reporting form will be added to the site later this semester. Reports may be made confidentially.

"We want to encourage reporting so we can respond appropriately to such incidents," Walesby says. "At the same time, we recognize that community members need a variety of safe spaces where they can go to report incidents and seek support."

For that reason, the site also encourages reporting of incidents at whatever location individuals feel most comfortable, including the Department of Public Safety; Office of Institutional Equity; Division of Student Affairs; Office of Student Conflict Resolution; Multiethnic Student Affairs; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs; University Housing; and numerous other University offices with trained staff who are prepared to respond to such reports.

Once an incident is reported, staff will help individuals determine appropriate next steps, Harper says. "Even if an incident is not one that constitutes a hate crime or a violation of University policy, we will learn from the reports and obtain feedback on how we can improve some aspect of campus climate. Reports may result in disciplinary action, individual education or new efforts to improve some aspect of campus life."

Student Breeanna Hare, who worked on developing the Expect Respect program, says the buttons, posters and ads are the most obvious visual representations of a larger goal to enhance the campus climate. She anticipates students will have many opportunities to support this goal through their own contributions.

"Getting involved is the best way to ensure that these values trickle into every facet of the University community, whether it is through a classroom dialogue, a student group-led event, or even by simply personally pledging to give and get respect," Hare says.

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