Bias Response Program

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WPI is committed to creating an equitable, inclusive, and anti-oppressive community where all are valued and respected as intrinsic members of the community. As part of our work to develop a campus culture that rejects bias, prejudice, discrimination, and hateful acts, WPI has established this Bias Response Program (BRP).  

At the direction of WPI’s president, the primary function of WPI’s Bias Response Program is to foster an inclusive campus culture at WPI by addressing individual and community-wide incidents of bias.

The Bias Response Program allows the university to provide support for individuals looking to better understand their reporting options, serve as a resource and measure of accountability to formal reporting channels, and advocate for individuals who may not be comfortable pursuing formal reporting channels. Additionally, the BRP will serve as a means of data gathering and assessment on patterns and trends of bias to mitigate the pervasive effects and recurrence of bias on campus.

Bias incidents* are those where speech or expressive conduct is directed toward an individual or group that is based on or motivated by the individual’s or the group’s real or perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, disability, gender identity and/or expression, weight, or other social identities. Bias incidents may include actions that are motivated by bias, but that is protected by academic freedom and do not meet the necessary elements required to prove a crime or a violation of University policy, as outlined below.

*Note: This definition of a bias incident is intentionally broad to reflect our values to create and sustain an inclusive, safe, and productive community for all of our members. 

The BRT is not a judicial group with the ability to adjudicate, but rather, a coordinated network of support to WPI’s formal reporting channels. Any invitation or engagement to meet with a member of the bias response team, including individuals allegedly responsiblie for bias incidents, is entirly voluntary. Depending on the nature and severity of the behavior, the bias incident will be addressed through education, restorative practices, mediation, community dialogue, or referral to appropriate offices for review, investigation, resolution.

Although not every incident will be a violation of university policy or law, all reported incidents will be reviewed for an appropriate response. Academic freedom allows, protects, and promotes the ability to discuss controversial ideas, differing views, and sometimes offensive and hurtful words. Such speech or expression will not be stifled or disciplined but may be used as an opportunity to grow as a campus community through the Bias Response Program (BRP).

FAQ's Regarding Bias Response Program

What is a bias incident? What are examples of bias incidents?

Generally, bias incidents are acts characterized by some expression of discrimination or hate against a particular group, or toward an individual because of their membership (or perceived membership) in that group.

Examples of bias incidents include but are not limited to …

  • Defacement and vandalism
  • Hate messages and symbols 
  • Racially themed parties 
  • Using a racial, ethnic, or other slur in a joke or to identify someone 
  • Ridiculing a person’s language or accent 
  • Posting or commenting on social media related to someone’s identity in a biased manner 
What is a hate crime?

A hate crime is a criminal act (against person or property) that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s hate or bias toward a particular individual or group because of membership in that group (as defined by Massachusetts law).

Acts constituting hate crimes, as defined by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 22C, Section 32, are "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 [their] 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. For incidents involving harassment, discrimination, and/or hate crimes, they will connect you with the department responsible for addressing these incidents. 

Note: The Bias Response Team's ability to refer an incident is no different than the ability of any campus member to report an incident that may violate the law or campus policy directly to the department responsible for addressing the 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.

The Clery Act is a federal law that requires colleges and universities to disclose annual information about campus crime. The Clery Act defines hate crimes as a criminal offense that manifests evidence that the victim was intentionally selected because of the perpetrator’s bias against the victim. Under the Clery Act, before an incident can be classified as a Hate Crime, sufficient objective facts must be present to lead a reasonable and prudent person to conclude that the offender’s actions were motivated, in whole or in part, by bias. If the incident was classified as a Hate Crime it will be included in the Annual Security Report (ASR).

Is a bias incident the same as a hate crime?

Bias incidents may range from micro-aggressions to acts considered offensive, or actions that cause harm. Although bias incidents sometimes constitute hate crimes or harassment, not all bias incidents rise to the level of a hate crime or harassment. 

I’m not sure if what I experienced/witnessed would be considered bias, but I think it might be. Should I still report it?

Yes. The Bias Response Team (BRT) can help you review the incident and determine if it activates an institutional process. We would rather hear about something than not hear. Reporting to BRT can also serve as a resource to help you process what occurred and provide resources and options should you choose to report the incident in the future.

You may also choose to file a bias incident report directly with the WPI PD. Please note that when filing with WPI PD, they will investigate the report of bias by gathering details, collecting evidence, sharing information with law enforcement partners, and/or consulting with legal experts. Note: You can file both a university and criminal investigation.

Emergency: (508) 831-5555        

Non-emergency: (508) 831-5433

Address: Founders Hall, Garden Level

Can I report a bias incident anonymously?

You may report anonymously through the Bias Online Reporting Form. You will be given a prompt at the start of the form. While this may limit our opportunity to respond and directly address your concern, it will allow us to gather information toward remedial action.

Who can I report an incident of bias to?

To report an incident of bias, use the Bias Incident Online Reporting Form.

What happens when an incident is reported?

The BRT is not a judicial group with the ability to adjudicate, but rather, a coordinated network of support to WPI’s formal reporting channels. For incidents involving harassment, discrimination, and/or hate crimes, the BRT will connect you with the department responsible for addressing these incidents.

Note: The Bias Response Team's ability to refer an incident is no different than the ability of any campus member to report an incident that may violate the law or campus policy directly to the department responsible for addressing the incident.

When an incident is reported, the following process begins:

  1. The co-chairs will receive all bias incidents reported through the bias incident online form.
  2. The co-chairs will review all incidents and refer them to the appropriate member of BRT or campus official to be addressed.
    1. Should the incident involve WPI’s Title IX Policy or WPI’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, the incident should be referred to the Title IX Coordinator
    2. Should the incident involve harassment or discrimination based on disability and/or accessibility accommodations, the incident will be referred to the Office of Accessibility Services (students) or the 504 Coordinator (employees).
    3. Should the incident involve a violation of the Student Code of Conduct (students), the incident will be referred to the Dean of Students Office.
    4. Should the incident involve employee harassment or discrimination, the incident will be referred to the Talent HR Partners.
  3. For community-wide incidents/impacts, the co-chair will convene the BRT based on the incident at hand. The BRT will then recommend what action steps should be taken, as appropriate.
    1. All BRT members are expected to voice their opinions in order to discuss the issue in a broader context and not in a vacuum. Each member has pertinent professional experience and knowledge to engage from their area, including but not limited to institutional history, academic research, prior interactions with persons involved, and possibly lived experiences. It is vital to the holistic process that each member engage fully.
  4. The BRT will maintain a log of bias incidents submitted through the bias incident online form to gather data and assess patterns and trends of bias incidents. 

This log will include the initial bias report, BRT follow-up notes and action items, and the outcomes/resolution of the incident. Note: Data gathered for assessment is collected by tracking incidents (as they occur), action items, and associated outcomes. An educationally focused strategy will then be established through proactive outreach and remedial action.

Is the incident I report confidential?

The BRT and BAC will maintain the privacy of all parties involved, consistent with university policy and the law. The details of a reported bias incident (including the identity of those involved) will be shared only on a need-to-know basis. Even when the details must be shared, respect and privacy of all involved parties will be exercised.

What can I expect when I meet with a member of the BRT?

A BRT member will reach out to connect and provide a space to talk through the reported incident in more detail. They will then provide you with resources and options on the next steps to help address the incident. For a bias-related incident, a BRT member will help directly address the incident. For incidents involving harassment, discrimination, and/or hate crimes, they will connect you with the department responsible for addressing these incidents.

Note: Recognizing that there are a variety of different reporting options on campus, depending on the type of incident, our goal is to help mitigate this barrier to reporting as well as the number of times an individual may be asked to share their story. We hope to 1) provide resources and help explain these different options and 2) help address the bias incident or connect individuals with the designated office responsible for addressing the incident.