Bias Incident Protocol

William James College is committed to fostering a safe, respectful, and inclusive learning and working environment for all. The College considers acts of bias unacceptable and antithetical to its commitment to an inclusive community.

We take all reports of possible bias very seriously and encourage discussion on issues of bias and inclusion to further educate and support our campus community. We strive to be responsive to those who feel hurt or targeted, while also offering a process that is fair and respectful to all involved. We understand and respect that a healing process can take time and that building and supporting our community requires commitment from all of us to ensure that every member has meaningful opportunities for robust academic, personal, and professional development experiences.

The reality is that bias incidents can occur anywhere in our community. Bias incidents can occur in classrooms, at co-curricular activities, in employment situations, and at off-campus college-related activities such as field placement sites. Acts of bias isolate individuals and groups, erode community, and can create an unwelcoming and unsafe environment for learning and working. This protocol will help assess whether a behavior, event or action may be bias-related, ensure that appropriate policies, procedures and protocols are applied, help the college take a timely and comprehensive approach to addressing incidents, and aid in communication with the college community about incident-related concerns. Our goal is to use the educational and training process to improve our efforts to achieve a more respectful and inclusive climate within our community.

William James College is committed to the principles of free speech and academic freedom, and values intellectual discourse and discovery.  Importantly, this includes potential exposure to perspectives and ideas which may be uncomfortable, disagreeable, or even personally offensive. The College is equally committed to creating a moral and respectful environment, free of fear and intimidation, where many voices, perspectives and ideas can flourish. The right to free speech does not protect individuals who violate our professional values by acting in ways that are reasonably seen as intimidating, threatening, dehumanizing, or stigmatizing. The ability of students, faculty, and staff to participate openly in vigorous intellectual inquiry requires a community where each member is treated with respect.  The College anticipates that members of our learning community can “disagree without being disagreeable” and insists upon fundamental respect for individual differences while avoiding hostile, stereotyping, or stigmatizing actions or statements.

The College has policies, procedures and protocols in place to respond to different kinds of incidents to support the health and safety of members of the College community, manage individual complaints or grievances, adjudicate possible violations of college policies and investigate violations of local, state and federal laws. Examples of such policies, procedures, and protocols include but are not limited to: Policy Against Discrimination, Discriminatory Harassment and Retaliation, Title IX and Student Code of Conduct. Those administering this Protocol will determine the appropriate avenue for addressing a particular incident.

Purpose for this Protocol

The purpose of our Bias Incident Reporting Protocol is to help assess whether a behavior, event or action may be bias-related, to assist in insuring that appropriate policies, procedures and protocols are applied, to help the college take a timely and comprehensive approach to addressing incidents, and to aid in communication with the college community about incident-related concerns. This protocol is implemented specifically to address bias incidents directed at or affecting members of the College community. The protocol covers students, faculty, staff, visitors, vendors, and contractors. The protocol may apply to incidents off campus that could have the effect of unreasonably interfering with, limiting or denying someone the ability to participate in or benefit from the College’s educational programs or work environment.

Why Report a Bias Incident

You or someone you know may experience an event or situation that is reasonably experienced as intimidating, disrespectful, dehumanizing, stigmatizing, or hurtful.  While bias incidents sometimes target specific individuals, they often offends an entire group or community. When a bias incident does target specific individuals because of their race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristic, even those persons not directly targeted may feel at risk. Bias incidents create tensions and schisms within our community and may give rise to hostilities and acrimony between individuals or among groups. Reporting bias incidents requires the broad and active participation of a community committed to supporting a robustly respectful community moral code.

What is a Bias

Bias generally refers to any belief, attitude, behavior or practice that reflects an assumed superiority of one group over another. Bias is reflected in prejudices or discrimination and can be either overt or covert, intentional or accidental. Bias can be directed against individuals or groups, and it can be institutionalized into policies, practices and structures. Freedom of expression and the open exchange of ideas are a vital part of educational discourse and personal/professional development, but acts of bias dehumanize people, undermine a sense of community, erode individual rights and/or the rights of groups, debilitate morale, and interfere with the effectiveness of learning and working environments.

What is a Bias Incident

A bias incident is any event, behavior or act—verbal, written or physical— of intolerance or prejudice.  A bias incident may or may not involve threatened or actual violence or other criminal conduct such as a hate crime. Bias incidents reflect an intentional act or disregard for the impact of one’s conduct that threatens, offends, or stigmatizes an individual or group based on perceived or actual characteristics including: race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, or physical or mental disability. Examples of bias incidents include hate speech, identity bashing, racist epithets, religious slurs, sexist jokes or cartoons, hate mail, offensive graffiti, or prejudiced remarks.  Bias incidents may occur in person, though written materials , or through electronic media such as e-mail and social media.  Bias incidents create a socially divisive atmosphere and negatively affect the campus climate.

What is the Bias Incident Response Team and what does it do

The Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) is responsible for responding to reported bias incidents. The team works closely with administrators, students, faculty, staff, committees, organizations and others as may be warranted in individual cases.  BIRT plays an educational role in both fostering an inclusive campus climate and supporting targeted individuals when bias incidents occur. BIRT is comprised of trained professionals from the offices of: Student Life, Human Resources, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The role of the Bias Incident Response Team is:

  1. To receive reports of a bias incident and investigate as needed.
  2. To contact individuals who have been involved in a reported bias incident to determine their willingness to participate in the investigation and/or to participate in processes to address and resolve the incident, including restorative processes to support individual and community resolution as warranted.
  3. To make recommendations—to administrators, governance bodies, organizations, or other groups—as to how to best foster an inclusive campus climate characterized by civility and mutual respect.
  4. To prepare an annual report describing the number and type of bias incidents reported and how the incidents were addressed.
  5. To develop and distribute materials that outline the Bias Incident Reporting Protocol to new and current students, faculty and employees.
How do I submit a bias incident report

Report a Bias IncidentAny member of the college community can make a report about a possible bias incident through the Bias Incident Reporting System by submitting a Bias Related Incident Form online. Please Note: You should not use this form to report a sexual assault.  Reports of sexual harassment or assault should be directed to the Title IX Coordinator.  Any report of a sexual assault through this system will be shared with the Title IX Coordinator.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens after I file a report?
Reports are received by the Bias Incident Reporting Team comprised of trained professionals from the offices of: Student Life, Human Resources, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The Team may draw upon the expertise of other staff or faculty as needed.  If you’ve indicated that you’d like to speak with someone, a member of the Team will contact you to request a meeting. At the purpose of the meeting is for the BIRT to gather additional details about the incident. BIRT team members will also provide a list of advocacy resources.  The BIRT will determine if the incident will be investigated under this Protocol, or if another College policy, such as the Title IX procedures, are more applicable.

Will my report be investigated?
All reports will be reviewed by the BIRT and the BIRT will determine an appropriate response. Reports that require deeper understanding will be investigated, in which case you will be contacted, if you provided your contact information, about next steps.

Can I report a bias incident anonymously?
Anonymous reporting is available. The BIRT strongly discourages anonymous reporting. This protocol is designed to help inform community practices (For e.g. offer explanation/encourage open participation) and anonymous reporting limits the BIRT’s ability to investigate incidents fully.

Is the process confidential?
The BIRT endeavors to protect the privacy of individuals who report or experience a bias incident and those who cooperate in an investigation of an incident.  In the event that reported behavior triggers for the Team the legal or ethical obligation to report the incident, the Team will work with the community members involved to inform them of the required disclosures.  The act of reporting an incident and facilitating an investigation is likely activity that is protected under law or College policy.  Discrimination or retaliation against those who report and cooperate is prohibited by those policies or laws.

Are bias incident reports added to personnel files?
The College will not add a bias incident complaint or a report following an investigation of a complaint to employee personnel records or student academic files.  If the College imposes corrective measures upon an employee or student following investigation of a complaint, the College will document  those measures and the reasons for the measures in the records or file.  That documentation may include the bias incident report or a summary of it.

Who Can File a Bias Related Incident Report?
Any student, staff, faculty member or visitor to campus can report a bias related incident that occurs anywhere on campus, at a school-affiliated off-campus site (such as a field education training site), or at an event or gathering where WJC-affiliated persons are interacting with each other. 

Can a third-party file a report?
Yes. For example, Faculty Advisors may file reports on behalf of students who experience a bias related incident but do not want to report it themselves. Sometimes, students, staff or faculty may file reports regarding incidents of which they have become aware.  In such cases, the BIRT will respond to these reports like Anonymous Reports. Unless in the process of inquiry the individual is willing to identify the themselves, then the BIRT will reach out further to gather more information from the primary source.

Glossary of Terms

The following includes terminology and descriptions of commonly used words used when talking about bias and related incidents.

Bias—favoring of or against one person, group or thing compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. Biases can be conscious or unconscious – explicit or implicit. Bias is also the personal, unreasoned judgment or attitude that inclines an individual to treat someone negatively because of their real or perceived race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, personal appearance, gender identity and expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, source of income, veteran status, or genetic information. In addition, bias can be institutionalized into policies, practices and structures

Bias related act —A bias related act is an action or behavior that expresses hostility against a person, property or group because of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, personal appearance, gender identity and expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, source of income, veteran status, or genetic information. To be considered a bias incident, the act is not required to be a crime under any federal, state or local statutes, nor does it have to violate university policy. Bias acts may be verbal, graphic or physical in nature. These behaviors often contribute to or create an unsafe or unwelcoming environment. Incidents may qualify as bias incidents even when delivered with humorous intent or presented as a joke or a prank.

Examples include:

  • Name calling; using a racial, ethnic or other slur to identify someone; or using degrading language
  • Creating racist or derogatory graffiti or images/drawings
  • Mimicking someone with a disability, or mimicking someone's cultural norm or practice
  • Making jokes or using stereotypes when talking to someone
  • Using derogatory names, terms or words (e.g., terms for persons of particular racial, ethnic, or cultural origin; persons who identify with particular sexual or gender orientation, members of faith communities, persons with disabilities, persons with particular political views) in person, in writing, on social media, on whiteboards, etc.

Creed—a set of beliefs or aims which guide someone's actions.

Discrimination—is defined by federal and/or state statutes to include unfavorable or unfair treatment of a person or class of persons with membership in a protected class (sex, race, age, disability, color, creed, national origin, religion, or genetic information)

Ethnicity—the culture of people in a given geographic region, including their language, heritage, religion, and customs.

Gender —a social combination of identity, expression, and social elements related to masculinity and femininity. Includes gender identity (self-identification), gender expression (self-expression), social gender (social expectations), gender roles (socialized actions), and gender attribution (social perception).

Gender expression—how one chooses to express one’s gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice, body characteristics, etc. Gender expression may change over time and from day to day and may or may not conform to an individual’s gender identity.

Gender identity—an individual’s internal sense of being male, female, both, neither, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.

Harassment—unwelcome conduct because of membership in a protected class which is sufficiently severe or pervasive so that it interferes with an employee’s ability to perform their job or denies or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the College’s programs. 

Hate Crime—Acts constituting hate crimes, as defined by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 22C, Section 32, include "any criminal act coupled with overt actions motivated by bigotry and bias including, but not limited to, a threatened, attempted or completed overt act motivated at least in part by racial, religious, ethnic, handicap, gender or sexual orientation prejudice, or which otherwise deprives another person of his constitutional rights by threats, intimidation or coercion, or which seek to interfere with or disrupt a person's exercise of constitutional rights through harassment or intimidation." For purposes of this protocol, all hate crimes are considered a form of bias incident.

Chapter 265 Crimes Against the Person—Section 39 states in relevant part that it is illegal to commit a crime against one's person or property with the intent to intimidate such person because of such person's race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability.

Implicit/unconscious bias—a stereotype or bias that occurs outside of conscious awareness and control and is often at odds with one’s conscious values.

Microaggressions—brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities that tend to be subtle, often unintentional, and indirect. Microaggressions often occur in situations where there are alternative explanations and are more likely to occur when people pretend not to notice differences, thereby denying that race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, or any other aspect of identity had anything to do with their actions.

Microassaults—Conscious and intentional actions or slurs, such as using racial epithets, displaying swastikas or deliberately serving a white person before a person of color in a restaurant.

Microinsults—Verbal and nonverbal communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person's racial heritage or identity. An example is an employee who asks a colleague of color how she got her job, implying she may have landed it through an affirmative action or quota system.

Microinvalidations—Communications that subtly exclude, negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of color. For instance, white people often ask Asian-Americans where they were born, conveying the message that they are perpetual foreigners in their own land. Sue, D. W. (2010). Microaggressions in everyday life: Race, gender, and sexual orientation.

National origin—the place from which a person and/or their ancestors originate

Protected class—a group of people who share common characteristics and are protected from discrimination and harassment under federal and state laws. Protected categories or characteristics include race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Race—populations or groups on the basis of various sets of physical characteristics that result from genetic ancestry. Sociologists use the concept of race to describe how people think of and treat groups of people, as people very commonly classify each other according to race.

Retaliation—adverse action taken against a person because the person engaged in; seeking information about, complaining in good faith about potential violations of College policies, participating in an investigation being conducted in response to allegations of violations of College policies, or filing a complaint with or participating in an investigation being conducted in response to a complaint filed with federal, state, or local authorities charged with enforcing specific statutes.

Sex—eparate from gender, this term refers to the cluster of biological, chromosomal and anatomical features associated with physical maleness and femaleness. Sex is often used synonymously with gender in our/modern culture. Although the two terms are related, they should be defined separately to differentiate the biological (“sex”) from the sociocultural (“gender”).

Sexual orientation—an individual’s physical and/or emotional attraction to and desire to sexually or emotionally partner with specific genders and/or sexes. e.g., homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual.

Socioeconomic status (SES)—the social standing or class of an individual or group. It is often based upon a combination of education, income and occupation.