Progress on permanent hate speech policy stalled until VP position filled

This academic year, the Lawrence administration paused its work on a permanent hate speech policy due to former Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Kimberly Barrett’s unexpected retirement this summer, according to junior Malcolm Davis, the chair of Lawrence’s Committee on Diversity Affairs (CODA). The interim hate speech policy remains effective, and the administration will continue to search for potential candidates to fill the vacancy.

View the Interim Hate Speech Policy here:

The Lawrence administration is still in the process of searching for and interviewing potential candidates for the new Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, according to Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Kodat. The new vice president will pick up the work on the permanent hate speech policy left by Barrett, Kodat said.  

“It’s especially important that our new vice president be able to contribute their knowledge and expertise to move it forward,” Kodat said.  

Davis echoed this statement. Since the new administrator might have a different opinion and effort regarding how to work on the hate speech policy, Davis said, it would be better to wait until the position is filled.  

Last academic year, CODA published a list of concerns to the Lawrence administration, including a suggestion to establish a concrete hate speech policy before the presidential election on Nov. 3, 2020, in order to protect the marginalized student body, Davis said. On Nov. 4, 2020, the Lawrence administration established the Interim Hate Speech Policy, which states its intolerance towards hate speech, as a substitute for a more permanent policy.  

According to the Lawrence website, hate speech is defined as “forms of expression (whether words or symbolic actions) that attack or use discriminatory language, or create an atmosphere of intimidation, harassment, or abuse, because of an actual or perceived identity group membership.” Allegations of hate speech involving students should be pursued through the Dean of Students Office.  

Students who experience or witness incidents of hate speech should file a bias incident report, Dean of Students Curt Lauderdale ‘01 said. Students also have the option to fill out a Judicial Board complaint form or a discrimination or harassment report through the human resource office, depending on who the offender is. 

 If an individual files a complaint and the individual being accused of violating the Interim Hate Speech Policy is a student, Lauderdale said, then the Judicial Board can conduct a hearing to determine whether the accused individual violated the policy as well as the measure of sanction, ranging from a formal warning to suspension or expulsion.  

Based on an anonymous survey of 70 Lawrence students regarding their opinions on the Interim Hate Speech Policy, 21 percent expressed high or moderate dissatisfaction with the policy, while 16 percent expressed high or moderate satisfaction.  

Additionally, 24 percent of the students found the Interim Hate Speech Policy to be really or somehow helpful, as opposed to another 24 percent of the students who found the interim Hate Speech to be not helpful or not helpful at all.  

While the Interim Hate Speech Policy provides a way for students to address their concerns, Davis said, having a permanent policy would better protect the safety of the marginalized student body.