Identifying and Reporting Bias Incidents at Washington College

 

    Identifying and Reporting Bias Incidents at Washington College

    Purpose

    Washington College is committed to fostering a welcoming community for all students, faculty, and staff. An informed awareness of the climate on campus is an essential part of Washington College’s efforts to create a supportive academic, residential, and professional environment for our diverse population. Washington College has developed a system for reporting incidents involving bias incidents that include a Bias Education Response Team (BERT). The BERT is responsible for serving as an educational role to continue cultivating the values of Washington College.  

    According to the Washington College student handbook, the College does not tolerate conduct that may be considered a bias incident toward any of its students, faculty, staff, and community members. The College expects its students, faculty, and staff to refrain from acts of intolerance directed at other members of the community, including (but not limited to) harassment, hate speech, and discrimination. The College does not seek to limit freedom of speech, including hate speech, but instead wants to ensure all its members can participate fully in College events and activities without fear of bias, intimidation, or harassment due to their identity.

     

    Common Language

    Bias Incident – any behavior or actions directed against a person or property that includes the use of slurs or epithets expressing prejudice on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression, but is not a criminal offense.

    Examples of Bias Incidents:                 

    • Offensive social media post
    • Tampering or defacing property
    • Violent acts
    • Using offensive language or slang based on a person’s identity
    • Distribution of hateful literature

    Hate Crime – The FBI defines a hate crime as “a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” According to the Civil Rights Division of the Office of the Attorney General, the state of Maryland law correspondingly protects people from crimes threatened or committed against them because of their “race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or national origin, or because another person or group is homeless. For more information on the definition and classification of hate click here.  

    Note: All hate crimes are bias incidents, but not all bias incidents are hate crimes.

    Microaggressions- Brief common exchanges that are often automatic and unintentional verbal, behavioral and environmental indignities that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative insults to a targeted group or individuals based on race, color, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression.

    Examples of Microaggressions:

    • Excluding a person due to religious practices
    • Comments that single out a person based on their identity
    • Not acknowledging a person’s race

    Common college campus locations where bias incidents occur nationwide:

    • Residence Halls
    • Social Media
    • Off-campus social settings
    • Classroom

    Reporting Bias Incidents

    Faculty or staff members, students, or visitors who experience or observe bias incidents, including hate crimes and microaggressions, are strongly encouraged to report these incidents to the College. For immediate assistance or in the case of an emergency, please contact Public Safety at 410-778-7810 24/7.

    Persons may self-identify or anonymously report bias incidents by filing a bias incident report through CARE. Students, staff and faculty may report a bias incident through the CARE system; please click here. Bias incidents reported by faculty, staff, students, and visitors are reported directly to the Director of Intercultural Affairs.

    Note: The BERT team does not normally issue required sanctions. Instead, the team is authorized to provide educational opportunities. In some cases, BERT team will offer these educational opportunities in addition to any sanctions that may arise from an official adjudication process (either the student conduct process or the employee conduct process).

    BIAS Education Response Team (BERT)

    The bias education response team aims to foster a safe and inclusive environment by providing advocacy and restorative education to any individuals that have committed a bias incident or acts of discrimination.  This team is charged with reviewing alleged bias incidents and providing educational resolutions that encourage the growth of the individual that address historical injustices and social inequities. Additionally, when appropriate the team will refer incidents for conduct action.

    In addition to reviewing bias incidents, the BERT team will:

    • Make recommendations to administration as how to best foster a welcoming and inclusive campus climate.
    • Prepare an annual report detailing the number and type of incidents reported. The report will include how incidents were addressed.
    • Develop and distribute information defining bias incidents; including the bias education response protocol. Publications will remain current and consistent with the student and employee handbook.

    Process & Tracking of Bias Incidents

    For students, behaviors that reflect bias or discriminatory action may constitute a violation of the Washington College Honor Code which is the basis for the student conduct system. For employees, these behaviors may constitute a violation of policies governing employee conduct. Every bias incident has a unique context that requires consideration before developing a response. Whether it is a contained or a community bias incident, timely and transparent response to the immediate concerns and follow-up will be implemented. At any time, the Bias Education Response Team (BERT) may contact other campus and community resources to aid in either handling the process or helping any campus community member involved in the bias incident.

    The following steps will guide the BERT team in response to the bias incident:

    1. Report will be reviewed to determine nature and level of severity. Complainant will be contacted if identity known. Guided by the wishes of the Complainant, party or parties responsible for initiating the bias behavior will be contacted. For most serious cases, the BERT team will convene for immediate action.
    2. Gather preliminary report. Verifiable information will be collected from Complainant or parties and parties involved in the alleged bias incident. Report will be reviewed with the BERT team to provide details of the incident.
    3. Notify and issue resolutions in writing to the parties involved in the incident.
    4. Meet with Complainant to facilitate services such as counseling, health services, or other support as needed to ensure the safety and to give assistance and comfort to the victims(s) or others in the campus community.
    5.  As appropriate, develop and implement an appropriate plan to initiate communication with the broader community, student leaders, and members closely involved with the incident.

    6. Make appropriate referrals for conduct action, when necessary, to other offices, such as: VP for Student Affairs/Dean of Students, Human Resources, Intercultural Affairs, and Public Safety.
    7.  Follow up with the parties involved in the incident.

    8. Notify the Complainant and parties in writing of the results of the investigation. Information obtained about the complaint will be treated as confidentially as possible, as guided by federal and state laws such as FERPA and the Clery Act.

    Bias Incidents Resolutions

    The BERT team has developed resolutions that will assume an educational role in fostering a climate that is inclusive, civil, and has mutual respect for all individuals in the Washington College community. Based on the severity of the alleged bias incident, it may result in a referral to the appropriate conduct process and for student respondents, it may result in an Honor Board hearing. The educational resolutions from the BERT team may include, but are not limited to:

    • Reflection paper/project on incident. The paper/project will include answers to reflection questions that are specific to the incident that occurred. The reflection paper/project aims to foster growth with the student, ensure that they have processed the incident that took place, have critically thought about their role, and describe what they have learned.
    • Immersion experience with reflection. The goal of the immersion experience is to expose the student to environments where they can learn from experiences that are different than their own.  The immersion experience will also have a reflection paper/project component to highlight what was learned.

    Bias Education Response Team (BERT team)

    Representation of this group includes: