Tufts forms Bias Education Response Teams for all campuses

A community-wide vigil where Tufts faculty and students honor the lives of the eight people lost last week and convene as a community in mourning and solidarity is held over Zoom on March 24th, 2021. Sophie Dolan / The Tufts Daily

The Office of the Provost shared in a March 22 email to the community that the two Bias Education and Resource Teams (BERT), previously announced by University President Anthony Monaco, have been officially established.

The Medford/SMFA BERT is chaired by Rob Mack, associate provost and chief diversity officer for the Medford/SMFA campuses, and the Boston and Grafton health sciences campuses BERT is chaired by Joyce Sackey. Sackey holds the same position as Mack but for the health sciences campuses.

Mack discussed the motivation behind the creation of the BERT in an email to the Daily.

“BERT’s specific purpose is to address the community impact of bias and hate events by providing support to everyone — students, faculty, and staff,” Mack said. “As we first envisioned how these teams should work, we identified an unmet need for centrally supported, team-based efforts focusing on supporting the community by providing education and resources.”

Mack explained what they define as an incident of bias.

“At Tufts, an incident of bias is defined as a violation of University policy and/or federal or state law that is motivated by bias against an individual or group’s membership in a protected category: race, color, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and expression (including a transgender identity), veteran status, genetics, retaliation, or any other characteristic protected under applicable federal or state law,” Mack said.

The March 22 email, signed by Provost and Senior Vice President Nadine Aubry as well as Mack and Sackey, noted that the work of the BERTs is different from the processes already in place for reporting and handling incidents of bias.

Mack expanded further on this.

“In light of its particular scope and charge, the BERT works to address the impact of both proven violations of University policy and/or federal or state law, as well as perceived or potential violations, which may also impact the Tufts community,” Mack said.

The email announcement explained who will be involved with these processes.

“The BERTs will recommend and deliver educational and healing programming for the community in collaboration with staff in the provost’s office, identity-based centers, and other relevant offices and departments, and in concert with other initiatives, programs, and events at Tufts that promote inclusion and equity,” the email said. 

The BERT webpage expanded on the way the processes will work.

“Members of the BERT will convene as soon as possible after a report of an incident of bias is provided to them by senior administration, TUPD, or the Office of Equal Opportunity, to whom all reports of bias, discrimination, and/or hate are referred for investigative and/or tracking purposes, in collaboration with other offices,” the site said.

Mack explained that the intended impact of the BERTs is ultimately education-based.

“BERTs primary function is to provide education and resources to support our community after an event has taken place,” Mack said. “However, the BERT will also be working with OEO and senior administration to identify trends that may call for proactive recommendations from [other diversity groups on campus]”. 

Mack detailed that the BERT team is composed of members from other diversity groups at Tufts.

“The Medford/SMFA BERT is specifically comprised [of] leadership from [the identity centers and TCU’s Committee on Community Diversity and Inclusion] to ensure full collaboration,” Mack said. “The Medford/SMFA BERT has a number of faculty and students who have agreed to support recommendations from the BERT.”

He added why he believes the establishment of the BERTs is crucial, especially right now.

“It’s important to recognize Tufts’ past efforts, but this is a way to take collaborative and purposeful action with the clear message from the president and provost that this is a university priority,” Mack said.

The email also announced that one of the BERTs’ first campus-wide initiatives was to honor the victims of the recent shooting in Atlanta.

“The BERTs have partnered with the President’s Office, the Chief Diversity Officers, the Asian American Center, and the University Chaplaincy for a community-wide vigil … where we will honor the lives of the eight people lost this week, and convene as a community in mourning and solidarity,” the email said.

This vigil was held on March 24.


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