The Without Fear organization at Portland State University is a network of students, faculty and security with one common goal; keep the PSU campus free from hate crimes. Although there has not yet been one instance of a hate crime reported on campus this year, the committee has been active. The meetings to this point have focused primarily on setting up a system of response to such events should they occur and planning educational seminars and workshops for the benefit of the entire student body.
Without Fear first began meeting before fall term began, and the initial response was overwhelming according to Aaron Bertrand, Communications Director for ASPSU. “We had over 30 people come to the first meeting in September, which is more than we anticipated,” Bertrand said. “There was a real strong feeling of stability that getting together provided. We want to feel that if something were to happen we are organized to the point where we could deal with it effectively.”
Bertrand went on to explain the steps taken by Without Fear to strengthen security on campus. He claims that one of the key elements to the Without Fear organization is its “direct ability.” “We want immediate response, by people with proper authority to handle the situation. If a hate crime is reported to campus security it is routed immediately to one of the directors, and the directors are people with authority to take immediate action.”
Specifically, the directors Bertrand refers to are the ASPSU President, the President of the University, the Director of Student Affairs and the Counseling and Psychology Services. There is no specific chairperson on the committee, although John Eckman and Mercedes Benton act as the Student Group Advisors.
Without Fear had been meeting regularly every Monday, but now that the mechanism for responding to potential hate crimes is firmly in place the meetings are being held on a more infrequent basis, as needed. Bertrand says that they are hoping to put together workshops in the future to help educate students, with times and dates to be announced. “I want people to know that we are very attentive to what happens in our community. We take the safety of the student body very seriously.”
Many student groups have been in contact with the Without Fear coalition. According to Bertrand, the Women’s Resource Group, Queers and Allies, Model Arab League, Arab and Persian Student Organization, Amnesty International, NAACP, Association of African Students, OSPRIG and ASPSU have all played an active part in the organization of the campaign. Many faculty members have attended the Monday meetings as well.
Without Fear also created a Web site which contains a form for contacting the organization. Bertrand is happy to report that he has not yet been contacted regarding an instance of hate crime.
The Web site encourages responses not only from victims, but anybody who feels like having their opinions heard on a variety of subjects. It presses students to write “as much as you can about your experiences, thoughts and ideas for the future of our community in a few short paragraphs.” The Web pages can be accessed by going to www.pdx.edu, and then typing “without fear” in the location provided to search PSU Web sites.
With the system for handling situations in place, the committee is primarily focusing its energy on the organization of workshops and education, yet they are always prepared to respond when needed.