The University continues to be open and transparent in its communication related to the bias incidents. Click here to learn more about the University’s Bias Incident Response Team.

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More information on the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) or log of recent incidents

Read below for campus wide message in response to recent incidents of hate.


Wednesday, Nov. 29 at 3:09 p.m.

Dear Campus Community:

I am pleased to announce that Westfield State University is moving forward with the installation of security cameras. As soon as December 4, more than 400 security cameras will be mounted throughout University property, with a focus on the residence halls.

The purpose of this initiative is to provide our community and the Department of Public Safety with another tool to address, and possibly prevent, the continuation of hateful and destructive acts that have disrupted our living and learning environment.

The University continues its effort to be open and transparent in its communication related to the bias incidents. To that end, a Bias Incident Response Team log has been established on the Westfield State website at http://www.westfield.ma.edu/bias-incident-response-team, listing each of the incidents.

Although extensive video surveillance provides an additional upgrade to our already increased security, it should not deter our vigilance as we work together to ensure a greater sense of safety and belonging on campus.

Next, I look forward to working with all of you as we address the underlying cultural issues that need our sustained attention in order to shift the campus climate to embody more compassion and empathy for all backgrounds and perspectives represented at our University.  

Yours truly,  

Ramon S. Torrecilha
President


Thursday, Nov. 16 at 3:21 p.m.

Dear Campus Community:

As a follow-up to this morning’s campus-wide message about the incidents in Scanlon Hall, I offer the following update:

  • Security staff and patrol frequency continue to operate at increased levels. In the coming days, an around-the-clock, residence hall-based security presence will begin. This increased presence will carry through until the end of the fall semester. The university is enlisting outside security vendors for supplemental security professionals as a way to augment our current 24-hour security on campus.
  • At 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday, Nov. 16), there will be a mandatory meeting for all Scanlon Hall residents in the wake of last night’s incidents. We want to offer continued support and resources to these residents who have been subjected to acts of hate. Counseling resources will be made available for those who need them immediately following tonight’s meeting.
  • As of Tuesday, Nov. 14, supplemental counselors have been added to the resources available through our Counseling Center. The Counseling Center is also working to bring in supplemental counselors with specific expertise in oppression counseling. Group meetings are being planned and a schedule is forthcoming.
  • The reward of $2,500 announced in the Nov. 8 campus-wide email has increased to $5,000. The reward now pertains to any of the acts of hate that took place since Sept. 17 and are currently under investigation. It will be granted to any individual who comes forward with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals who are responsible. Individuals with information should contact the newly established Westfield State University Police tip line at 413.572.8690.

Students and others are reminded that anyone who wishes to report anonymously can do so through Public Safety via the Silent Witness link at https://secure.blueoctane.net/forms/K0EiXSE82L1g or through the Office of Non-Discrimination and Compliance via http://www.westfield.ma.edu/sexual-violence

I appreciate the full community’s cooperation and assistance as we respond to and investigate these deplorable acts that strongly contrast the university’s mission and values. Thank you for your continued perseverance in bringing our campus together in unity.

Yours truly,  

Ramon S. Torrecilha
President


Thursday, Nov, 16, 2017 at 9:51 a.m.

Dear Campus Community:

A racial and threatening note was slipped under a student’s door in Scanlon Hall late last evening. Anti-Semitic symbols were also found in the residence hall. Westfield State University Police and Residential Life staff responded and are investigating. Members of the university’s Bias Incident Response Team assembled to ensure support to those impacted.

I appreciate the community’s cooperation with the investigation of these incidents and for directing concerned or affected students to the available resources. I ask for your continued commitment and assistance.

Sincerely,

Ramon S. Torrecilha
President


Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017

Dear Campus Community:

There are several progress notes that I wanted to share with the campus community to address questions about what is being done in response to the recent bias acts. Action has included:
 
1.      Increased Security
The Massachusetts State Police is collaborating with the Westfield State University Police on the ongoing investigations. Also, in addition to the immediate increase in university-wide security staffing and patrol frequency, the university will move forward to enlist outside security resources to augment our internal capabilities.
 
2.      Camera Installation
The university currently has received two proposals for video cameras. We have consulted with the Massachusetts State Police and other public universities on best practices using cameras. In addition to the installation, we need to ensure we can appropriately store and access the video footage. A working group, with input from Public Safety, Information Technology, Procurement, and Residential Life, has been convened and most recently met this past Tuesday.
 
3.      Bias Incident Response Team
Westfield State has formed a Bias Incident Response Team, which has responded to the three most recent incidents. The team’s charge is to ensure that those victimized or otherwise affected are connected with the resources they need and that follow-up measures take place, such as the mandatory meetings in the wake of the Scanlon incident. Public Safety, Student Life, Residential Life, the Office of Non-Discrimination and Compliance, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Counseling Center are currently represented on the team which will expand in the future.
 
4.      Increased Counseling Resources
We are enlisting outside resources to increase our counseling services capacity. This will help meet the current demand for our Counseling Center.
 
5.      Mandatory Workshops in Residence Halls
An outline for “Many Owls, One Nest” facilitated workshops has been presented to Student Life. The first of these will take place in Davis Hall on Nov. 28 and 29.
 
6.      EAP Hotline and On-site Support
Employees are encouraged to take advantage of AllOne Health Employee Assistance Program by calling 1.800.451.1834 (TYY users, use Relay) to speak confidentially with a counselor. Also, on Tuesday, Nov. 14 from 2 to 5 p.m., employees can stop by the Tekoa Room in the Dining Commons to speak to a counselor.
 
7.      University Climate and Culture Consultant
A formal Request for Proposal will be issued next week for a consultant for campus climate and culture. We are seeking the consultant to assess our campus-wide diversity and inclusion efforts; recommend a structure and coordination to move forward; and generate long-term strategies.
 
8.      Faculty Conversation Series
Dr. Carol Bailey has led the “Diversity Across the Curriculum: Strategies, Challenges, and Opportunities” conversation series. The most recent was held on Wednesday, Nov. 8. The aim is to provide tools to use in the classroom to help foster safe, productive conversation about race and other issues that can be difficult for students to discuss candidly.
 
9.      All-Campus Programming
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of Non-Discrimination and Compliance, and the Division of Academic Affairs continue to offer programming to address race and other diversity and inclusivity issues to facilitate a broader understanding or sensitivity about these important topics. Academic Affairs’ “Higher Ed/Higher Ground” series is one such example.
 
Thank you to both our faculty and staff for their leadership during this difficult time on campus. As some of you have seen from “facstaff” email exchanges, faculty are putting forth much effort to support our students and call for unity. In addition, the Albert and Amelia Ferst Interfaith Center has shared helpful resources for racial healing on campus.
 
Likewise, leadership exhibited by the Student Government Association, Resident Hall Councils, and the university’s faith- and heritage-based student clubs has further strengthened our community’s call for unity and healing.
 
I realize that there is plenty more to do given the continued bias incidents. However, your collective support and collaboration underscores the strength of our academic environment and our university’s ability to offer critical, positive teachable moments in the wake of acts inspired by hate and intolerance.
 
Your continued commitment to bring the campus together in unity is appreciated.

Yours truly,  

Ramon S. Torrecilha
President


Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017

Dear Campus Community:

This week brings two events that continue a series of bias incidents at Westfield State University.

First, anti-Semitic symbols and racial slurs defaced a number of walls and one whiteboard in Scanlon Hall during the overnight hours during this past weekend. A meeting with Residential Life staff took place on Sunday and mandatory meetings for all Scanlon residents took place last evening.

Second, as noted in the alert sent by Public Safety last evening, a female minority student reported being verbally and physically assaulted on campus. The student was walking between Bates Hall and Wilson Hall, two academic buildings, when three males approached from behind and the shoulder of one of the males checked or bumped her, knocking her backpack to the ground, at which point it was by kicked by a second male. A third male made a threatening racist comment to her. Massachusetts State Police responded and are coordinating with Westfield State University’s Department of Public Safety on the investigation.

Westfield State’s recently formed Bias Incident Report Team has responded to these most recent incidents. The team’s charge is to ensure that those victimized or otherwise affected are connected with the resources needed and that follow-up measures take place, such as the mandatory meetings in the wake of the Scanlon incident.

With continued occurrences of hate speech and now a report of activity escalating to an assault, there is understandably an increased concern and frustration level by all members of the campus community. This assault is a cowardly, hateful deed on a campus that has re-doubled its commitment to diversity, empathy, tolerance, and inclusion. Know that the investigations behind the scenes continue and I remain committed to our resolve through the help of countless others across the Westfield State University campus.

With regard to the assault incident reported Tuesday afternoon, the university will issue a $2,500 reward to any individual who comes forward with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals who are responsible. Individuals with information about the assault should contact Westfield State University Police Captain Mike Foyle at mfoyle@westfield.ma.edu or 413.572.8098.

As I’ve said before with the vandalism and other acts of hate speech, if a student or students are found responsible for either the vandalism and other forms of bias acts or this newly reported assault, they will be expelled from the University, which is consistent with the University’s zero tolerance policy regarding hate crimes.

In the follow-up meetings to the most recent acts of bias, I have fielded many questions regarding cameras on campus. As a way to better monitor common areas of our residence halls and complement our current safety measures, the university has sought estimates and proposals for installing cameras in our residence halls over the last several weeks. We have identified the funds necessary for this endeavor and hope to move forward with implementation as soon as possible. 

As a reminder, listed below are resources for students who either have information about the events in Scanlon Hall or are in need emotional/spiritual support in the wake of these deplorable acts.

I appreciate the community’s cooperation with the investigation of these incidents and for directing concerned or affected students to the available resources. I ask for your continued commitment and assistance.

Yours truly,  

Ramon S. Torrecilha
President



Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017

Dear Campus Community:

Anti-Semitic symbols, obscene drawings, homophobic and racial slurs, and sexist profanity defaced a number of walls and doors in Davis Hall in the early morning hours of Sunday, Oct. 29. There is no place for this hateful graffiti at Westfield State University, yet these appalling messages serve as our most recent acts of bias on campus.

This is our home away from home, the place we should, and most do, take great pride in keeping clean and welcoming for all. Instead, these cowardly acts represent the polar opposite of what we strive to build as an inclusive environment. These incidents in Davis Hall target multiple groups based on religion, sexual orientation, race, and gender. The sheer gall of these vandals is alarming, as is their ignorance and lack of humanity.

Last evening, we held mandatory meetings for Davis Hall residents. Among topics discussed, residents were notified that they would be required to attend a series of workshops on civility, respect, and the other expectations of being part of a residence community. 

As Westfield State’s Bias Incident Response Team responds and the Department of Public Safety works with the Massachusetts State Police to investigate, we ask that anyone with information on those responsible for these latest intolerable incidents please come forward.

Listed below are resources for students who either have information about these events or need emotional/spiritual support in the wake of these deplorable acts.

Yours truly,  

Ramon S. Torrecilha
President



Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017

Dear Campus Community:

I am writing to update you on our progress since the discovery of several hateful messages on campus over the last three weeks.
 
First, let me express how proud I am of our campus community for standing up to bigotry and racism and declaring loudly, and proudly, that we will not allow these cowardly, hateful acts to create division and dissention on our campus; that we have redoubled our efforts at creating a more inclusive campus.  The best thing we can do to respond to messages of hate is to demonstrate as a community that we will not be bullied and will not abandon our core belief in the importance of diverse and welcoming community.
 
We are undertaking both immediate and longer-term actions to respond to the specific incidents and to create the kind of culture change that will provide no shelter for racism on our campus in the future.
 
Regarding the recent acts, our Office of Nondiscrimination Compliance and Department of Public Safety, aided by the Massachusetts State Police, continues its active investigation.  We are hopeful that those responsible will be brought to justice, and we continue to encourage anyone with information that may be helpful to the investigation to report it to the Department of Public Safety.  This can be done anonymously by clicking on this link.
 
We have also created a cross-divisional Bias Incident Response Team that is charged with responding to and coordinating support for those who are targets of bias incidents and we are exploring a series of longer-term security upgrades, including the installation of strategically placed cameras in common areas, for the entire campus.  We know that students must feel safe and protected on campus.
 
As an academic institution, we value the role that education plays in eliminating prejudices.  Our Academic Affairs division will continue its work of hosting Higher Ed/Higher Ground and Diversity Across the Curriculum programming that specifically addresses issues of race and supports the efforts of faculty integration of issues of diversity in the classroom.  Additionally, Residential Life staff and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will expand their efforts to offer targeted programming in the spaces where students live and gather as a community. 
 
I have had discussions with both the leadership of the Springfield NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League of New England about combating racism on campus.  The Office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has also been in touch to provide support and resources. 
 
My office will be engaging an outside expert with experience in creating culture change on campuses like ours.  Their task will be to create a well-thought-out action plan that permeates the campus – reaching classrooms, residence halls, athletic fields, stages, and laboratories.
Please continue to follow the timeline on our website for important updates.
 
Here at Westfield State, I am quite certain that what we struggle with today will make us stronger, more empathic, and a better institution tomorrow.
 
Sincerely,
 
Ramon S. Torrecilha, Ph.D.
President



Friday, Sept. 29, 2017

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Administration,

As proud alumni of Westfield State, we are disturbed and dismayed by the recent incidents of racism inflicted on students in their residence hall. There is no place for this or any form of bigotry on our campus. We commend the initial response of President Torrecilha and his administration in taking these incidents seriously. We expect that the individual(s) responsible, once found, will be permanently removed from our campus community.

We want Westfield State to be a place where ALL students feel welcome, safe and fully accepted. In speaking with many current and former students over the past week, we have come to understand that this is not always the case. This is not right and we must take action to initiate change.

An integral part of the university experience is to learn and grow personally, emotionally, philosophically and spiritually, shaping the core values of who we are as human beings. Clearly, there is work to be done to foster the acceptance of every individual.

We, as Westfield State alumni, are willing to work with the administration, students, faculty and staff to promote unity and support for ALL members of the Westfield State community. We will stand with our students as they hold the administration accountable for the words and actions they have committed to, so we can all live, work and learn together.

Sincerely,
Westfield State Alumni Association Executive Council 
 

Jim McGowan '92 President
Nancy Daly '90 Past President
Terrell Hill '92 Alumni Trustee
Eileen Rockwal '91 Foundation Board Representative
Liz Burgos '07

Justin Connolly '16
Evelyn Dina '16
Adrienne Francis '10
Scott Gowen '84 

Scott Liberman '90
Steven Mailloux '14
Brittany Moniz '14
Nicole Nalepa '10
Kelli Nielsen '04
Mike O’Rourke '73
Karin Perry Karey '85
Amy Platt '98

Cheryl Vieira '08 



Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 5:20 p.m.

Dear Campus Community:

Westfield State University continues its thorough investigation into the incidents of racist, sexist, and hate speech that have taken place on campus over the last week. We remain vigilant on campus, with student safety being our highest priority, as we remain forthright that such acts have no place on our campus.

I am thankful for the outreach, coordination, and support the university has received from community groups, local legislators, the City of Westfield, and Massachusetts state agencies, offering their services when and if they are necessary. Accordingly, the Massachusetts State Police will coordinate efforts with the Westfield State University Department of Public Safety as the investigation moves forward.

Over the last week, I have spoken with representatives from the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, the Greater Springfield NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League of New England, all of whom have offered their counsel and support.

We thank all members of the campus community who have extended their time, energy and concern to stamp out hatred as a whole on campus. Despite this trying and sensitive time on campus, Westfield State University will become a stronger, more empathic institution as a result of what we have gone through together.

Meaningful culture change takes time, but I’m counting on all of us to play integral roles in improving our campus climate.

Although our work is far from done, I want to express my gratitude to the many members of our Westfield State community who have gone significantly above and beyond to support our students and each other during this very difficult time on campus.

I look forward to staying in touch and keeping you informed.

Thank you.

Yours truly,  

Ramon S. Torrecilha
President


Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 4:40 p.m.

Dear Campus Community:

Thank you to all who attended today’s University Assembly on the Campus Green. It was encouraging to see such a large show of support. This intentional disruption to our normal schedules underscores the severity of incidents and our determination to face head-on racism, sexism, and hate speech.
 
I encourage those who weren’t able to attend to click here to get a sense of the sentiment of the event. I am proud of the students, faculty, and staff who showed courage by speaking up at this large gathering. Their remarks contained similar themes of outrage and disappointment given the recent incidents, but they also contained a powerful call for unity.
 
I know that many of us are discouraged by the uptick in racist, sexist, and homophobic incidents that have taken place since have worked to bring our opposition to such behaviors to light. It is important for us to remember that this is how oppression works. When there is an attempt to change the order, pushback will occur and that is what these incidents represent. Know that this does not shake our resolve to change the climate on our campus. We will continue to monitor events, increase the presence of public safety, pursue investigations and build our plan for moving forward.
 
Clearly, there is more work that needs to be done. Leveraging the momentum of today, I invite students, faculty, and staff to continue the conversation tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 22. This “Day of Acknowledgement and Listening” will consist of two listening sessions open to students—10 a.m. to Noon and 1 to 3 p.m.—in the Owl’s Nest in Ely Hall. We encourage faculty and staff to attend the morning session, so students have their own space in the afternoon.
 
These conversations will be integral as the university puts together a plan of action to better educate and sensitize the full campus community on the host of issues related to inclusivity. 
 
As a reminder, individuals with information regarding any of these incidents are encouraged to report through any of the following channels:

As we have heard and seen, these events have a deep emotional impact. Know that resources for emotional and spiritual support are available through the following:

Thank you.
 
Yours truly,  
Ramon S. Torrecilha
President


Thursday, Sept. 21 2:32 p.m.

Statement from the Student Government Association Executive Council

Dear Westfield State University Community:

On behalf of the Student Government Association Executive Council, we feel that it is imperative to send a message to our campus community regarding recent events and the current climate on campus. To begin, I need to once again state that Westfield State University does not condone the discrimination of any individual based on age, disability, sex, gender, race, national origin, religion, and familial status.

While the basis of recent meetings and assemblies surround the repeated racist attacks directed at students living in New Hall, it is crucial to understand that this is not by any means an isolated incident. Acts of racism, sexism and hate speech directed at members of our campus community happen frequently. Students have stated that they are comfortable being uncomfortable on this campus. That should not be tolerated at an institution that prides itself on inclusion.

We call on every member of our Westfield community to unite and act upon these repeated acts of injustice. Change will not take place until we take action with the goal being that no student at Westfield State University feels unwelcome or uncomfortable due to the color of their skin or what they believe in.

We can create a positive change and improve our campus climate but we must come together and stand united to do this. This is just the beginning. Every action we take from here on out will help to eradicate hate from our campus.

Listed below are resources for students who either have information about these events or need emotional/spiritual support during these difficult times.

#OwlsFightBack

2017/2018 SGA Executive Council

  • Brendan McKee, President
  • Arielyss Santiago, Vice President for Student Life
  • Jacob Lotter, Vice President for Academic Life
  • Marcus DiBacco, Vice President for Finance
  • Madeline Dexter, Vice President for Programming
  • Cameron Swan, Student Trustee
  • Karina Sallaway, Executive Secretary
  • Derek Estrella, Legislative Secretary

Sincerely,

Brendan McKee
President
Student Government Association
Ely Building 017
Westfield State University
(413) 572-5439


Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 9:45 a.m.

Remarks, as delivered, from President Ramon Torrecilha

University Assembly, Campus Green

As many of you are aware, over the past several days, two of our students were victimized by sexist and racist comments, including the n-word, written on the signs on her residence hall door.  Sadly, I report that early last evening, the n-word was written in marker on the wall of the elevator in Scanlon Hall.  These incidents are blatant, intentional acts of sexism, racism and hatred.  Despite a variety of efforts on our campus over the past year to engage our campus in a dialogue about racism including concerted efforts through the divisions of residential life and academic affairs and my own time spent listening to students, faculty and staff of color, these incidents persist on our campus. 

I spent time yesterday listening to students, faculty and staff discuss these recent incidents and their deep emotional response. While the university response may feel devoid of action, I want to remind you that there is an investigation taking place and if we are able to find the individual responsible, he or she will be expelled from the university.

At both the SGA meeting yesterday afternoon and the gathering at the globe last evening, I heard speakers note that acts of racism are not isolated to this campus.  This is true.  Racism, sexism, and homophobia are part of the world outside the borders of our campus, but this is no reason to accept these prejudices on our campus.  As is the case outside of Westfield State, these problems are complex and will not be solved easily or quickly.  Like most difficult projects, it will take determination, hard work and cooperation.

This event’s disruption in your regular Thursday schedule is intended to jump start this process. While I met with faculty staff and students yesterday and began to create an action plan, I still need to hear from you.  I want to be mindful of the next class period, so I invite you over the next twenty minutes, to come to the microphone and share your reflections with the community. 

*Open comments delivered by those attending assembly*

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas with our campus community.  I know there are many of you in the crowd, and others who are not here right now, who would like to continue this dialogue and contribute to a plan for moving forward.  Our next step is to create another opportunity for you to be heard.  I will be holding a day of Listening and Acknowledgment tomorrow, Friday, September 22.  All faculty, staff and students are invited to attend a session from 10 a.m. to 12 noon in the Owl’s Nest.  Additionally, I invite students to attend a second session I will be holding just for them on Friday, from 1 to 3 p.m., also in the Owl’s Nest. 

I know some of you are cynical about the statements we issue and doubt the sincerity of my messages.  But I do wish that you could see what I see on this campus – what I saw yesterday.  Dedicated residence hall assistants and professional staff drained by the incredible amount of support they had provided their residents during the day; faculty, staff, and administrators who arrived on campus at 5:30 a.m. in the morning and didn’t leave until well after the rally at the Globe at 10 p.m.; public safety officers and ISOs who doubled their efforts on campus last night on short notice and most of all, the leadership of our students. I could not have been more proud of the students who gathered at the SGA forum last night and those gathered at the Globe. They are the best of who we are at Westfield State and we should not forget that we have much to be proud of on this campus. 


Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 2:18pm

Dear Campus Community:

At 6:30 a.m. today, I asked the Resident Assistants, Public Safety and Cabinet members to gather the residents of New Hall so that I could speak directly with them regarding the racist and sexist messages of harassment being left on the door of a student residing in their community.
 
I let the residents of New Hall know that this type of behavior would not be tolerated on our campus. I asked them to come forward with any information they may have regarding this incident.
 
As we conduct a thorough investigation of this hateful activity, please know that we have increased our security and have put our residence hall staff on alert to be vigilant.
 
Many of you may be aware that word of this incident has reached social media and mainstream media. We are monitoring the messages from our community. I am pleased that so many of the messages reflect one of our alumni who stated “WSU is better than this.”  I know that you all agree that as an institution, we have had a long history of being an inclusive and inviting community and we will continue to reinforce the fundamental value of diversity on our campus.
 
As I stated to our students at New Hall this morning, part of the college experience is developing empathy for others. We will continue on this mission, teaching our students that dignity and respect for all others is the core of a civil community.
 
Individuals with information regarding the incident are encouraged to report through any of the following channels:

Such events can have a deep emotional impact.  Please know that resources for emotional and spiritual support are available through the following:

 
Yours truly,
 
Ramon S. Torrecilha
President 


Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017 9:42pm

Dear Campus Community :

It has been brought to my attention that discriminatory and highly offensive language has been posted on a message board outside of a student’s room in New Hall. I am strongly disturbed by the motivation to engage in such a hurtful act against another individual.

We are currently investigating this unacceptable behavior. This will not be tolerated and is in strong contrast with the values and mission of Westfield State University.

At Westfield State, we are an inclusive community. Staff and students alike are drawn to our welcoming and supportive culture. We are here to inspire, encourage and challenge each other in positive and healthy ways. Civil discourse is encouraged; acts intended to pain and intimidate others are not.

I urge us all to continue to celebrate our differences, not call them out in a divisive and hurtful manner. At a time when enough hurtful and careless messaging is on full display in our nation and world, let’s take solace in our compassionate and thoughtful community at Westfield State and celebrate the many powerful issues and passions that unite us.

Yours truly,

Ramon S. Torrecilha
President

 


Timeline and Response to the Sept. 17-19 2017 Bias Incidents.