The University of Texas adopted a new policy Wednesday that more clearly and forcefully declares its condemnation and prohibition of certain acts of intolerance, hate and bias.
“The Hate and Bias Incident Policy establishes that actions conducted with discriminatory and hateful intent on our campus will be punished rapidly and with greater consequences than in the past,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves said in a message emailed to the university community. “It clearly defines the three primary actions that can result in a hate or bias incident charge — threatened or actual violent conduct, harassment, and incitement to imminent violations of the law. We will not tolerate threatening acts at UT.”
The policy, effective immediately, comes two weeks after students at a town hall-style gathering hosted by Fenves criticized university officials for a sometimes-tepid response to incidents of discrimination and hate. Fenves conceded during the town hall that the university has fallen short of a full-throated condemnation of such incidents at times, including the previous week when posters imploring people to “imagine a Muslim-free America” were placed on three buildings and a utility pole on campus.
The new policy had been under development before the town hall, said Soncia Reagins-Lilly, UT’s vice president for student affairs and dean of students. It calls for a faster review of complaints and potentially greater sanctions for violations, up to dismissal of a student found in violation and termination of a faculty or staff member.
The policy states that, in accordance with federal and state laws, UT “prohibits unlawful harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity or gender expression, age, disability, citizenship, veteran status, sexual orientation, ideology, political views, or political affiliation.”
Reagins-Lilly noted that some incidents of hate cited at the town hall, such as death threats shouted at a student wearing a head scarf by an unknown person, are virtually impossible to investigate. In such cases, she said, a student can be put in touch with a diversity coordinator who can help the student talk through the experience.