Friday, September 28, 2007
Four years ago, a swastika and anti-Semitic slogans were discovered on the doors, hallways and classrooms in LeConte Hall. The vandalism was found just days before then-UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl announced a 30-member task force to tackle hate crimes, reaffirming the important role of the committee.
But after all the members graduated the committee eventually died out. Now, an ASUC bill aims to revive the Chancellor’s Task Force on Hate and Bias in order to combat the continued existence of hate crimes on campus. The bill was spurred by an incident in which a sign for the group Students for Justice in Palestine was found broken in half.
Hate crimes are an ugly, dark part of our society that tragically continue to persist, even at a supposedly open and tolerant campus that is UC Berkeley. In the past four years, the UC police have handled 26 criminal cases relating to hate or bias.
However, the ASUC must be cautious if it plans to bring the task force back. While the committee has a lot of potential to be productive and make a difference in the campus community, task forces generally have a reputation of ineffectiveness due to loosely defined goals. Originally, the committee was designed to hit four areas: education and outreach, safety, policy and reporting. According to ASUC president Van Nguyen, one of the main concerns of dealing with hate crimes is the difficulty in collecting data on the incidents. Many people are uncomfortable disclosing the fact that they were targeted in such terrible events. But if individuals are not willing to go to the police to report a hate crime, it’s hard to gauge how attractive a task force might be as an alternative option.
If the ASUC bill and the task force are to succeed, they must work on reinventing the group in an innovative way to be accessible and trustworthy to students. It must clearly define its goals and take steps to ensure that the committee will not follow the path of its predecessor.
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