The Bias Response Line appears on every syllabus and student ID. It was drilled into our heads during the widely attended Reality Show; however, it has proven to be an unreliable student resource. The BRL is an NYU accommodation that allows students to report instances of discrimination and bias, whether they be from peers or faculty members. Its intention is to ensure that all members of our community have an outlet to report incidents of bias. While initially the BRL appeared to be a positive tool for NYU, the program has not taken any meaningful action. Additionally, NYU has failed to produce a report regarding the results of the BRL since its creation in 2016, despite promises to disclose data on the program. Without serious reformation and clarification of the consequences for bigoted behavior, the program will continue to serve solely as a symbol of inclusivity without the ability to carry out its intended mission.
Last semester, a transgender Steinhardt junior August Enzer reported psychology professor Edgar Coons for alleged transphobia. According to Enzer, Coons did not refer to his transgender students with their preferred pronouns and taught false information that’s offensive to the transgender and intersex communities during his lecture on gender and sexuality. Coons has denied all allegations against him, stating, “Whatever gender someone feels to be should be how they are recognized.” The BRL relayed the case to CAS human resources and Gene Jarrett, Seryl Kushner Dean of the College of Arts and Science, but the BRL has not been transparent about the outcome of the case. The lack of transparency by the BRL makes it impossible to hold NYU and its constituents accountable.
Moreover, BRL and President Andrew Hamilton promised in 2016 that they would provide a breakdown of the organization’s reports by the end of 2017. The BRL has still not released a public report. The line claims its goal is to make NYU an equitable and inclusive community, but its lack of clarity and communication in handling reports impedes the organization from achieving its mission. The line should be more transparent about its investigations. The BRL should prioritize addressing individual cases and communicating case outcomes clearly.
The BRL was neglectful in its handling of its investigation of Coons — the NYU community does not know how Coons was disciplined, if he was at all. Without clearly outlining punishments for transgressions of racism, transphobia and other bigoted behavior, NYU is failing to hold itself to account. NYU’s administration only helped to reiterate the untrustworthiness of the BRL by failing to produce public data. NYU is an institution that publically prides itself on its diversity and inclusivity, yet the investigation into Coons shows that in some cases, the university fails to deliver on its word. We believe that BRL must be held accountable because NYU students deserve a greater degree of transparency and a deeper a commitment to eliminating intolerance on campus.
A version of this article appeared in the Jan. 29 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial at [email protected]