Washington College is committed to providing a dynamic and inclusive living, learning, and working environment in which every person is valued and treated with dignity, where free expression and debate are encouraged, and care for fellow community members, especially in moments of conflict, is strived for.
Washington College protects free expression of ideas, even if they are unpopular, because this is vital in promoting learning in an educational setting. Freedom of speech can sometimes protect controversial ideas and sometimes even offensive and hurtful language; however, it does not protect personal threats, discriminatory conduct, or other acts of misconduct that violate the College codes of conduct, College policies, or federal, state, and local laws .
This policy, aligned with our college mission, codes of conduct, and diversity statement, establishes a mechanism for addressing situations involving an objectively true or subjectively perceived bias act. It includes pertinent definitions, reporting and investigating guidelines, approaches to resolution and accountability, and references to relevant policies.
A bias incident is any unwelcome, offensive behavior or act (verbal, written, or physical) personally directed against or targeted toward an individual, group, and/or property based on perceived or actual membership in a protected class. A bias incident may or may not rise to the level of policy violation outlined in the Discrimination, Harassment, Title IX, Social Media Policies, and/or College Codes of Conduct.
Incidents of bias may be intentional or unintentional or delivered as a joke or prank, or with humorous intent. Examples include:
- Offensive social media post
- Tampering or defacing property
- Using offensive language or slang based on a person’s identity
- Distribution of hateful literature
Identity attribute refers to age, ancestry, ethnicity, national origin, ability (physical, psychological, cognitive), sex, gender identity or expression, citizenship or immigration status, marital status, socioeconomic class, race, religion, religious practice, sexual identity, or veteran status.
Any of the following may be considered a bias incident:
Conduct that denies any individual or group equal privileges or access to a particular activity or opportunity because of the individual’s or group’s actual or perceived identity attributes.
Unwelcome behavior based upon individuals’ or groups’ actual or perceived identity attributes that unreasonably interferes with the person’s work or educational performance or creates an intimidating or hostile work or educational environment. Examples may include, but are not limited to, epithets, images, slurs, jokes, electronic communication, or other verbal, graphic, or physical conduct.
Acts of Intolerance or Exclusion:
Conduct motivated by discriminatory bias or hatred toward other individuals or groups based on perceived or actual identity attributes.
Hate speech refers to speech, gestures, conduct, writing, text, images or displays (written and/or spoken) that, by design, incites hatred, violence, contempt, prejudicial actions or which disparage or intimidate members of a group or individuals based on their membership in an identity attribute group. Hate speech is intended to intimidate or incite fear or terror among the College community.
Some bias-related incidents may violate the College codes of conduct or other College policies and/or laws, while other bias-related conduct may be considered protected speech or expression.
The College encourages students, staff and faculty to report perceived bias incidents. All reported incidents will be documented and investigated.
Reporting helps address bias in several ways:
- Establishes a data set to identify the types and frequency of perceived bias at Washington College
- Allows systems for accountability to be activated
- Informs education around conscious and unconscious bias in order to prevent and/or minimize harmful bias incidents.
- Can lead to conflict resolution
Reporting bias is one step in confronting bias. It is important to note that not all reports lead to resolution and accountability. In most cases of perceived bias, caring and courageous conversations between the parties directly involved yield the highest levels of mutual understanding and lasting resolution.
When any occurrence of perceived bias is reported, the College takes responsibility to:
- support and engage with groups and individuals who have been personally impacted by a bias incident and those who have been alleged to commit harmful bias
- educate individuals and the campus community about the harmful effects of bias
- promote inclusivity and mutual understanding
- hold individuals accountable for bias-related conduct that violates College policy
- collect and publish data on reported bias incidents each year
Reports of bias can be made in the following ways:
- Submit a CARE report
- Tell an RA, department head, or a member of the
- Notify Public Safety
- Verbally or in writing
- Report anonymously by calling or filling out the anonymous tip form Please note that reporting anonymously may limit the College’s ability to thoroughly respond to the incident and to address the reported behavior.
Reports of bias that rise to the level of policy or law violation will undergo formal investigation which could include Public Safety, Honor Board processes, Title IX processes, Human Resources, and/or local law enforcement.
Reports of bias that do not rise to the level of policy or law violation will be informally investigated and managed in a pro-social manner within the related department.
Retaliation against a person who reports or complains about bias incidents, or who participates in or supports the investigation of a bias incident complaint, is prohibited and will not be tolerated.
Resolution and Accountability
Washington College provides both informal and formal avenues for addressing bias incidents. The college encourages parties to both report and pursue processes for resolution.
In most cases of perceived bias, caring and courageous conversations between the parties directly involved yield the highest levels of mutual understanding and lasting resolution. Informal processes may encompass a broad range of conflict resolution strategies, including facilitated conversations, accommodations, mediation, counseling, or restorative practices.
Formal accountability measures follow the established protocols of Public Safety, the Honor Board, Title IX, Human Resources, Discrimination and Dispute Resolution Committee, and law enforcement.
The College Bias Education Response Team (BERT) facilitates broad-level educational initiatives, collects and publishes data on bias reports and outcomes, and provides resources to assist in formal and informal bias response with the goal of assisting all college stakeholders in
The BERT includes professional representation from Residential Life ,Human Resources, Public Safety, Office of Student Intercultural Affairs, Athletics Department, College Communications, and consults with Academic Affairs through the Diversity Committee, Academic Dean, and the Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion. Student representation is invited, welcomed, and strongly encouraged.
Refer also to policies:
Title IX – Sexual Harassment and Discrimination
Code of Conduct