The Brunswick Town Council voted 7-1 to accept a report from the Brunswick Human Rights Task Force at a meeting on August 15. In doing so, they accepted the task force’s eight recommendations for actions “exploring the causes and effects of bias and discrimination” and authorized the task force to continue working through the end of 2016.

The Brunswick Town Council established the task force last December to determine whether a series of alleged gender and racial bias incidents which affected both Bowdoin community members and Brunswick residents were isolated occurrences or parts of a larger trend. However, Council Chairwoman and task force member Sarah Brayman said that she also views the task force as a way for Brunswick to participate in broader national conversations on bias, inclusion and equity.

“I want Brunswick to be a welcoming community for all. I feel very strongly about that,” Brayman said in a phone interview with The Orient.

The task force is comprised of three Brunswick Town Council members—Brayman and councilors Kathy Wilson and Jane Millet. According to the report, several community members were frequent participants in task force meetings, including Brunswick Police Chief Richard Rizzo and Bowdoin Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion Leana Amaez. Amaez could not be reached for comment.

Over the past several months, the task force conducted interviews, held meetings and facilitated roundtable discussions with a range of groups and individuals across the Brunswick community.
While acknowledging “anecdotal and testimonial evidence of bias incidents,” the report states that the task force “was not presented with evidence of widespread bias” in Brunswick. However, the report does go on to say that Brunswick could “benefit from a robust discussion of bias and its effect on those subjected to the hurt, humiliation, and fear that it can cause.”

Task force recommendations include continued monthly roundtable discussions, improved information sharing between Bowdoin College and the town and community events aimed at publicizing Brunswick’s “very positive reputation” regarding community diversity and inclusivity. These measures accompany an automated online system for officially reporting bias incidents, which the Brunswick Police Department  (BPD)launched earlier this year in an effort to improve information gathering.

Brayman also emphasized the role of community organizations other than the municipal government, such as Curtis Memorial Library and local churches, in facilitating dialogue about diversity and inclusion. She pointed to new weekly meetings at Little Dog Coffee Shop aimed at bridging the gap between members of the LGBTQ and Christian communities as an example.

The task force noted that the report is a continuation of Brunswick’s long-standing stated commitment to being “welcoming to all.” When it established the task force last December, the town council also adopted a resolution that explicitly reaffirmed its opposition to discrimination against all groups protected under the Maine Human Rights Act.

Although the task force is currently authorized to work only through the end of this year, Brayman said that she felt there was potential it could continue into 2017 as members “continue to do the work that [they] feel needs to be done.”

The entire report and its recommendations can be viewed on the Town of Brunswick’s website as part of the August 15 Brunswick Town Council Agenda Packet.

Meetings of both the Human Rights Task Force and Brunswick Town Council are open to the public. Brayman said she encourages Bowdoin students and community members to attend.