Bias Response Team Protocol
Bias Response Team Purpose
Furthering Western’s values and strategic goals
Like the Structural Equity and Bias Response Team (SEBRT) as a whole, the Bias Response Team (BRT) contributes to Western’s mission of public service through academic excellence and inclusive achievement. The BRT upholds the university’s core values and works directly in furtherance of Western’s third and fourth strategic goals, to foster a caring and supportive environment and to pursue justice and equity in our policies, practices, and impacts.
The BRT’s work likewise advances the university’s Policy on Ensuring Equal Opportunity and Prohibiting Discrimination and Retaliation, which states that “All members of the University community will create and maintain an environment that is free of discrimination and harassment and one in which employees, students, applicants and visitors are treated with dignity and respect.”
The BRT’s role
The Bias Response Team’s (BRT) role is to identify and collaboratively coordinate caring, prompt, and effective responses to bias incidents to (1) support Western students, staff, and faculty who are targeted or impacted by these incidents and (2) educate the Western community about impacts and histories of such bias and actions to prevent future similar acts. BRT also educates the university community about how to notify BRT of bias incidents, and maintains publicly available records of reports and responses.
The BRT and this Protocol do not replace or supersede existing processes through the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance (CRTC), Office of Student Life (for student conduct), or University Police (UPD) to investigate alleged violations of university policy or civil rights or criminal law. People may choose to notify the BRT of an incident and also report to University Police and/or the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance. BRT’s role is one of support and education; BRT does not impose discipline or sanctions.
Freedom of speech
Western is committed to academic freedom and freedom of speech; these freedoms may be exercised in ways that protect the rights of all people in the Western community (see Regarding Public Expression and Assembly). The BRT recognizes the rights of students, staff, faculty, and the public to engage in speech protected by the United States and Washington State constitutions. The BRT may engage in speech and action to counter protected speech that conflicts with Western’s values and hinders Western’s progress towards its strategic goals. As stated above, the BRT does not impose discipline or sanctions.
Scope of the Bias Response Team’s Purview
Charged by the University President, the BRT coordinates and facilitates support for people targeted by bias incidents and Western’s response to such incidents. The BRT responds to (1) reported incidents that occur at any Western Washington University location, including the Bellingham campus and Western’s locations in Anacortes, Bremerton, Everett, Port Angeles, and Poulsbo, or at a Western-sponsored activity, and (2) at the discretion of the BRT, to significant incidents of bias beyond the university that impact people in our Western community.
Defining Bias Incidents
A bias incident is language or action that demonstrates bias against an individual or group of people based on actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, disability, sexual orientation, age, or veteran status.
Examples of bias incidents include, but are not limited to, vandalism to personal or University property, defacement of posters, verbal slurs, and physical assault.
A bias incident may contribute to creating an unsafe environment or have a negative psychological, emotional, or physical impact on an individual, group, or community. A bias incident may occur whether or not there is an intent to cause a negative impact, and whether or not the incident constitutes a crime or violation of Washington law or Western policy.
The Bias Response Team is composed of the following positions. Individuals currently serving on the Bias Response Team are listed on the SERBT website.
- Executive Director of Student Life
- Counseling Center representative
- Director of the Disability Access Center
- Director of Multicultural Student Services
- Ethnic Student Center representative
- LGBTQ+ Director
- Office of Civil Rights & Title IX Compliance representative
- Residence Life representative
- University Police representative
- Other staff who make significant contributions to effective bias response and strategic advancement of structural equity, appointed by the President and Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services
The BRT meets regularly to conduct its work, including discussion of new and open notifications of bias incidents and concerns it anticipates arising. The BRT also communicates regularly, both internally and with additional colleagues, to respond to notifications of bias incidents.
A student, staff, or faculty member notifies the BRT of a bias incident by either:
- Completing and submitting the online notification form or
- Communicating directly with a member of the BRT about the bias incident. The member of the BRT then completes and submits the online notification form.
Additionally, for purposes of notification and record keeping, a member of the BRT may submit an online notification form regarding a significant bias incident that does not directly involve Western community members or a Western location, but that impacts people in the Western community.
The entire BRT receives the notification via Symplicity.
The Associate Dean of Students reviews the notification to assess whether there are immediate safety or health concerns that require convening the Threat Assessment Team and/or other urgent notification or referral to colleagues.
The BRT chair in consultation with BRT members determines whether additional university personnel (e.g. Director of University Communications, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services, Associate Director of Residence Life) should be promptly notified.
Unless the notification is submitted anonymously, the BRT chair or their designee contacts the person who submitted the form to acknowledge receipt within one business day.
BRT assesses care needs and provides referrals
Within two business days of notification, BRT communicates to assess potential care needs. In this communication, the BRT designates a lead to coordinate the response and future communication with the target/notifying party.
Within two business days of notification, the designated BRT lead conducts outreach to the target and/or notifying party to provide basic support and refer to university partners as appropriate.
BRT plans and implements response, continues providing resources
At the next weekly meeting of the BRT, or earlier if a special meeting is convened based on the urgency of the matter, the BRT plans the response to the incident. The BRT may include additional relevant university partners in this meeting.
The BRT uses the BRT checklist to inform response planning.
Following the BRT meeting, the lead communicates with the target/notifying party to check in about resources provided previously, share further support resources if applicable, share options for reporting to CRTC, Student Conduct, and/or University Police as applicable, and to discuss potential responses.
As appropriate, university groups/organizations that are directly or significantly indirectly impacted by an incident of bias will be contacted by the lead, who will provide resources and discuss potential responses.
Working with the BRT, and in collaboration with university partners and the target/notifying party as appropriate, the lead continues to coordinate the incident response. Throughout, the lead keeps the BRT Chair updated about support provided and response planning.
Possible responses may include:
- Providing support to the targeted individual/community, including listening, care, connection to university and community resources, and regular updates about planned responsive actions;
- If the affected party is a student, a BRT member can assist in notifying faculty of any academic impact, such as the need for additional time on assignments or to request excused absences.
- Communicating with individuals, groups, departments, or the Western community at large to express the university’s values of care, support, equity, and justice, and commitment to addressing and countering bias incidents;
- Providing educational resources to individuals, groups, departments, or the Western community at large to mitigate the impacts of the incident, advance learning about harms caused by bias incidents, and prevent future similar acts of bias;
- Providing resources and support to faculty and staff to empower them in further responding to bias incidents within their departments and buildings;
- With the Structural Equity Team, holding educational workshops and/or community conversations;
- With the Structural Equity Team, determining whether the incident is part of a larger or ongoing pattern of similar bias.
When the response includes communication with all students, faculty, and/or staff, the BRT collaborates on that communication with University Communications. All communication with press, including Western press, is managed in collaboration with University Communications.
Incident responses tracked in Symplicity
At all stages, BRT communications with the target/notifying party and any other highly impacted groups are logged in Symplicity by the BRT member leading the communication.
A summary of actions taken by BRT in response to the incident are logged in Symplicity by the Chair or incident response lead.
After the response is implemented, the incident is closed in Symplicity by the Chair or response lead.
Information in Symplicity is shared with the Structural Equity Team to identify patterns and inform educational and structural changes aimed at preventing future similar incidents.
Over time, this protocol will be refined by the Bias Response Team in order to best effectuate the purpose of the BRT.
The Bias Response Team at Western Washington University drew from and is grateful for the ideas shared in Oregon State University’s “Reported Bias Incident Response Protocol” (2018), EAB’s “Campus Bias Response Briefing” (2017), the University of Texas at Austin’s Campus Climate Response Team website, and the University of Washington’s Reporting Bias Incidents website.