October 2021

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Feature Article

Photo of Van Bailey by John T. Consoli

Meet Dr. Van Bailey: New Director of Bias Incident Support Services

By: Alex Long

UMD is excited to welcome an important new member of our community, Dr. Van Bailey, as the Director of Bias Incident Support Services (BISS). BISS is a program housed in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion that educates, reports and responds to the campus community about hate-bias incidents. Dr. Bailey has spent seventeen years focusing on “LGBTQ+ equity and support on different college campuses.” He started his career in residential life at California State, Northridge, first as Community Director, then as Senior Community Director, where he established two living-learning communities––one focused on cultural education and the other focused on LGBTQ+ student support. Dr. Bailey next served as the Assistant Director for Education at the LGBTQ+ resource center at University of California, San Diego. Following this, he established the LGBTQ+ student support centers at both Harvard College and the University of Miami. Directly before coming to UMD, Dr. Bailey was Assistant Dean and Director for Diversity and Inclusion at George Mason University.

For some years, Dr. Bailey has been interested in coming to UMD and working in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, but he said that he was drawn to the present opportunity to “work with a community that was interested in healing and restoration, particularly around racial trauma,” and saw this theme reiterated through UMD’s core values and program offerings. Dr. Bailey sees the  tragedies that have occured within the UMD community as opportunities for reconciliation, understanding, connection, and reconnection. Dr. Bailey was attracted to this specific role because he feels that “identity-based trauma is something that we have all experienced, and that we need the tools and support to understand it to be able to figure out the ways in which we can find resolutions and healing.”

Since coming to UMD, Dr. Bailey has begun work to get familiar with the campus landscape and increase the visibility of BISS, especially to students. He feels that BISS’ ability to connect with different colleges or schools and be integrated with the academic environment is going to be a critical effort, stating, “[incidents] are not just happening off campus and are not just happening outside the classroom, they are happening within the classroom, as well.” With that in mind, Dr. Bailey is committed to building strong campus relationships and creating spaces for faculty members who are looking to receive professional development, training, and education, and provide support to students in their classroom. In his first year, Dr. Bailey also has a goal of “increasing opportunities for engagement and learning as it relates to understanding how bias happens, and what people can do when bias does happen from a bystander perspective, or from a community care perspective.”

In order for BISS to reach its fullest potential, it is important that faculty members understand its value and purpose. Dr. Bailey relayed that Bias Incident Support Services does not investigate incidents, but rather, “our purpose is really around the support and centering of the harmed or impacted party.” BISS provides support to faculty members in reporting and responding to bias incidents, understanding their own biases or how biases happen in groups, and training on different topics, including implicit bias and cultural competency. BISS can also help faculty members implement practices that foster a psychologically safe classroom environment, which Dr. Bailey feels is essential. Dr. Bailey wants to emphasize that BISS is not just to support students and that “we are here to support faculty members, as well. If faculty feel harmed themselves, if they feel like they need a space to process bias related incidents or harm they have encountered, we are here for them, as well.”

BISS offers support to the UMD community in a variety of ways. For both faculty and students, BISS offers many training and informational resources about bias, along with an outlet to report bias incidents. BISS is currently running “Stop the Hate” workshops for both faculty and students, which provide an introduction to bias incidents and the resources available through BISS. BISS also offers a monthly meeting called “The Circle”, which Dr. Bailey shares, “is a restorative space that is established for people to get support around different topics that are sometimes identity-based.” For example, last month’s session was held in reflection of the Twenty-Year War (America’s decades-long war in Afghanistan). They also held a session during Mental Health Awareness Week about the connections between mental health and bias. “The Circle” is open to all students, faculty, and staff. In order for BISS to be able to support the community best, it is essential that faculty, staff, and students know Bias Incident Response Protocol and how to report a bias incident—information about both and other BISS services can be found on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s website, diversity.umd.edu/bias.

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