October 17, 2016
From a young age, we have learned the phrase, “words could never hurt me.” But sometimes words are what can be most offensive.
Even as adults, people make offensive jokes or comments. In these cases, education on why or how the words were offensive can help prevent further incidents. And other times, more intensive actions can be taken.
MOSAIC and The Office of Institutional Equity can help students deal with harassment and provide resources.
Students use these offices to process hurtful situations and learn how to handle harassment, according to Anthony Cordova, director of MOSAIC.
“We are on the front line of it in some ways; we’ve always had students who have come into our office, like our LGBTQ students who are just in the process of coming out, and they are in a very delicate and sensitive state of mind,” said Cordova.
The purpose of the MOSAIC office is to offer guidance to students and to teach them how to accept and value themselves, according to Cordova.
Mandatory reporters on campus include MOSAIC staff, instructors, junior teaching assistants and resident assistants. Mandatory reporters are obligated to report any student harassment claims to the Office of Institutional Equity, said Cordova.
Cordova has been discriminated because of his ethnicity. Someone who is discriminated against does not forget about it, said Cordova.
“The first time it happens to you and you figure out you are being singled out and seen as something less simply because of how you happened to be born; it’s very painful,” said Cordova.
“I’ve heard of students walking through the library and a group of people passing them would just say something like, ‘well I’ve never seen a Mexican who was smart enough to be in college,’” said Cordova.
Cordova said that no matter what your background is, everything that has made you who you are is unique and should be something to share, not conceal.
MOSAIC handles harassment cases in a three-step process, according to Cordova.
If a student reports harassment, the first step would be to sit down with that student and discuss the incident. Cordova would then help that student process through their emotions and any concerns they may have.
Finally, the student is asked if they would like to take their case any further. Students often do not persist with the incident because they do not know who the offender was, said Cordova.
Most cases are treated informally because the majority of offenders only need an explanation as to why their behavior was offensive, according to Julia Paris, Title IX coordinator and director of the Office of Institutional Equity.
“For the informal cases, we try to take a more problem-solving based approach. Frequently people are totally shocked that they have been accused for harassing or offending someone,” said Paris.
Offenders are usually remorseful and willing to learn how to grow from the situation so they don’t make the same mistake again, said Paris.
“We’ve had a few cases where people had made off-hand comments or casual remarks and they never realized it might have come off sounding offensive,” said Paris.
In formal cases, the Office of Institutional Equity takes civil action. After a student has come in and reported an intentional harassment, the respondents or offenders are brought into the office.
Both sides are heard and any witnesses or documented evidence is brought forward. The office will assess the evidence and details of the case and confirm with both the respondent and complainant that all relevant evidence has been presented.
Finally, the office will decide if any policies have been broken and what action should be taken based on the severity of the case. The Office of Institutional Equity is not just a place to report harassment or other offenses, according to Paris.
The office advises, educates and works with students to build up their confidence so they can handle difficult situations on their own.
“I want people to know that our office is there as a resource and problem solving office. If you are facing a difficult situation, we can help,” said Paris.
Students who need help dealing with harassment cases can go to the MOSAIC office, located in UC 110, or reach the OIE, located in ACAD 106, at 255-4324.
Students can also schedule appointments at the Counseling Center, located in the Wellness Center, at 255-4444. The center is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.