Public colleges and universities across Maryland would have to establish and implement programs preventing hate bias incidents and submit reports on their progress to the state legislature, according to a bill set to be heard on the House of Delegates floor this week.
The Hate-Bias Incident Prevention bill would mandate that all public universities in the state develop or improve currently existing plans addressing hate bias incidents and submit them to the Maryland Higher Education Commission for review.
The bill is a collaboration between Del. Angela Angel (D-Prince George’s) and ProtectUMD, a coalition of 25 student groups at this university. Documenting and reporting these incidents will help the General Assembly “begin to understand what’s happening on the campuses,” Angel said in January.
Under the law, public universities will be required to submit yearly reports to the commission detailing their efforts to prevent hate bias incidents. Universities currently send cultural diversity reports to the Maryland legislature, but hate crimes are mentioned only briefly, Angel said.
“That’s not gonna cut it, now that we know that there are a lot of things going on on these campuses,” she said.
The bill comes on the heels of the murder of black Bowie State University student 2nd Lt. Richard Collins on this campus in May. Sean Urbanski, a former student at this university who is white, will be tried in July on first- and second-degree murder charges and a hate crime charge in the stabbing.
“It’s good to have a plan,” said Nilo Lopes, a junior information sciences major. “A dude got killed right on campus. You can’t turn the other way.”
The bill requires universities to document and put all reported hate bias incidents into a log, which will be maintained and made publicly available, and mandates that a hate bias coordinator be hired. This university announced in November it would hire a hate bias coordinator.
“I’m really supportive of these things — being aware of the crime that’s going on, letting everyone know what’s happening, trying to keep everyone safe [and] passing bills to help protect our community,” said junior criminology and criminal justice major Joshua Lee. “If we sit by and watch things happen, it’s not going to change anything.”
If schools already have a hate bias prevention plan in place, they will be asked to improve on their existing protocols, according to the bill. Training to address hate bias awareness, prevention and reporting would be compulsory for all incoming college freshmen under the proposed legislation.
Lopes was hopeful that the training would help change students’ perspective, while Lee questioned its effectiveness, saying “I don’t think [students] would care.”
“You’re already training these kids to not drink alcohol [at orientation],” Lopes said. “You might have them learn a little diversity as well.”
This university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion will maintain a webpage with an updated hate bias incident log, and individuals can choose to receive email updates about these incidents that have occurred on the campus, according to its new protocol.
“The notification system will be the responsibility of the hate-bias response team in collaboration with the new program manager, who the university is in the process of hiring,” university spokeswoman Jessica Jennings wrote in an email.
The bill will be introduced to the House of Delegates on Thursday and will need to pass both chambers of the General Assembly before Gov. Larry Hogan signs it into law.
“There’s a first step to everything,” Lee said. “I would be really happy if the bill passed.”