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Bias incident report dropped against MUSG committee

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A bias incident report that was filed against a Marquette University Student Government election committee was recently dropped for reasons the university cannot disclose.

The report alleged political collusion and favoritism, the individual who filed the report said.

The individual, who wished to remain anonymous to avoid being targeted for filing the report, was an applicant for the Outreach Vice President position in MUSG. Applications for the position opened Nov. 1, 2017, and interviews were conducted Feb. 15.

The OVP selection committee consisted of Executive Vice President Allie Bitz, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences; current OVP Meredith Gillespie, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences; Senator Aisling Hegarty, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences; student-at-large Linnea Stanton, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences; and Carrie Enea, assistant director for conference services in the Department of Student Affairs.

Gillespie, who was recently elected MUSG president for the 2018-’19 school year, is listed as a “perpetrator” in the report, while Bitz is listed as a “witness” to the incident.

While neither Bitz nor Ben Dombrowski, the outgoing MUSG president and senior in the College of Communication, disclosed any information on the applicant’s political views, they said the applicant was deeply involved in a political student organization.

“MUSG is not a political organization.Whoever’s in this job has to have zero bias,” Dombrowski said.

The individual disagreed and said that politics is tied into the position because they work with so many groups on campus.

After an investigation process, the individual said the Department of Student Affairs, which handles bias incident reports, said the school deemed the claim unnecessary because political affiliation “does not constitute as protection under Marquette diversity.”

“The criteria on the bias incident reporting website does not specifically call out political views, so if there’s any misunderstanding, it could stem from that,” Chris Jenkins, university spokesperson, said in an email. “Speaking generally, each report is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. A report of potential discrimination based on political views would be reviewed as part of that process, just as any other report would be reviewed.”

The individual said they were frustrated by the university’s lack of protection for their political views.

“And I was thinking to myself, that doesn’t make sense,” the individual said. “That should really be protected. You should think a student’s identity should be what fundamental ideas they support.”

The individual did say they may have been rejected because of their involvement in political groups on campus. They also said they are neutral when it comes to politics.

Bitz, Gillespie and Dombrowsk responded to the allegations and said the reports of bias were not true. They said the applicant was denied because they were unqualified for the position and were too closely related to certain political groups on campus, which Bitz and Dombrowski said would be inappropriate for the role.

The position the individual applied for was OVP, who is responsible for coordinating service projects in the Marquette neighborhood and works closely with the Near West Side Partners and Good Neighbor programs. The OVP also chairs the Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice and Community Engagement Committees. Gillespie said the role was created two years ago to be a “liaison between the community, the campus and the rest of the Milwaukee area.”

Bitz said a good candidate for the role should have extensive experience in service opportunities and would care deeply about social justice and community issues. She said the applicant who filed the bias incident report had almost no community service experiences during college, which was concerning to the committee due to the large number of opportunities available at Marquette.

“They had very little experience with service. (The applicant) went back and talked about what they did in high school,” Bitz said. “We have an absurd amount of service opportunities at Marquette. So, when we asked about service involvement, they … said Hunger Clean-Up, which is once a year. That’s a big red flag.”

The individual said they had the experience necessary to perform the role of OVP.

“I applied for the OVP position because I genuinely think I can really make a difference for students in a positive manner that could benefit every single undergraduate on campus,” the individual said. “Some of the things I really wanted to tackle is (sic) sexual assault and domestic abuse on campus.”

The individual who filed the report and another individual were the original, sole applicants.

The committee is currently in the interviewing process with three more candidates. The report alleges that the committee has already made a decision on someone who is close friends with Gillespie. The individual later corrected the statement and said they believe the candidate most likely to be chosen is close with Gillespie.

But Gillespie said the biggest issue is that MUSG didn’t initially receive any candidates they were comfortable with.

“The OVP selection committees (sic) opposing views politically have colluded to rather select an applicant based on close friendships and similar political viewpoints than merit-based standards, which violates Marquette’s values,” the bias incident report stated.

The individual said they filed the report not to attack MUSG, but to ensure that the committee is held accountable during the hiring process.

“This is not something just to go after the people listed on the form,” the individual said. “The reason both the individuals are listed is because they are the heads of the selection process committee.”

Bitz and Gillespie also said that when making decisions, they do their best to put aside any personal relationships and potential bias. The newly-elected president said that knowing people who apply for the job is not relevant to the situation.

“We know them personally. I’ve hung out with these people,” Bitz said. “(But) we never promise the job to anyone. We’re trying to hire responsibly.”

The bias incident report system was developed in 2015 as a way to report discrimination that is not criminal. According to the system’s website, reports filed should indicate some discriminatory act “motivated by race, ethnicity, religion, age, national origin, sex, disability, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, veteran or socioeconomic status.”

Bitz noted that she received no indication that any candidate was upset or planning to file a report after the interviewing process.

Bitz and Dombrowski said all information related to applicants for MUSG positions is confidential and could not be released. Bias incident reports are also kept confidential, and there is no public record of the report being filed.

The individual said they believe students should be put first in MUSG.

“In a decision process, you shouldn’t overlook a candidate,” the individual said. “If you have doubts, you should ask questions.”

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