Frequently Asked Questions
What is a bias incident?
A bias incident is language or an 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 can 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.
What bias incidents does the BRT respond to?
The BRT responds to bias incidents it is notified of 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. At its discretion, the BRT can also respond to significant incidents of bias beyond the university that impact people in our Western community.
Why should I notify Western of a bias incident?
SEBRT and Western more broadly are committed to fostering a caring and supportive environment and to pursuing justice and equity. When the Bias Response Team is notified of a bias incident, it can coordinate support for people most impacted, work to limit the hurtful impacts of the incident, and advance learning aimed at preventing future similar acts.
When someone notifies the BRT of a bias incident, that incident is included in an annual public report providing information about incidents of bias and responsive actions taken. This information informs future work of the Structural Equity Team and Western more broadly to create policies and engage in practices that are equitable and just for all people in our Western community.
Can I submit a notification anonymously?
Yes. The bias incident notification form may be submitted anonymously. However, the Bias Response Team can only reach out to provide support to someone targeted by a bias incident if the identity of that person is known.
What happens when I notify the BRT?
Students, staff, and faculty can notify the BRT via the online notification form or directly to a member of the Bias Response Team. The information shared goes to all staff on the Bias Response Team. At the discretion of the BRT and as required by applicable laws, the notification may also be shared with additional university colleagues, including University Police and/or the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance (CRTC). Staff from University Police and CRTC serve on the BRT.
Unless the notification is submitted anonymously, a member of the BRT will email the person submitting the notification within one business day to acknowledge receipt and to offer to meet to discuss next steps and resources.
Information describing the nature of the bias incident, but not identifying the individual(s) targeted, is shared with the Structural Equity Team for purposes of monitoring the types of bias incidents occurring and making information about bias incidents publicly available.
What are possible outcomes of notifying the BRT about a bias incident?
The BRT’s role is one of support and education; the BRT does not impose discipline or sanctions. At a minimum, known individuals targeted by bias incidents will be contacted by a member of the Bias Response Team. Support provided by the BRT will include listening, care, and connection to the Western department(s) best able to provide further support.
Other possible responses to bias incidents include:
- Coordinating the removal of graffiti or flyers;
- 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.
What about the First Amendment?
Students, staff, faculty, and the public have the right to engage in speech protected by the United States and Washington State constitutions (see wp.wwu.edu/timeplacemanner). The BRT recognizes both the right to freedom of speech and the imperative of creating welcoming places to learn for all our students. 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. The BRT does not impose discipline or sanctions.
How was SEBRT created?
During the 2019-20 academic year, President Randhawa’s charge to the Council on Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice included providing recommendations for creating a bias education and response team. In response to this charge, the Council recommended creating a Structural Equity and Bias Response Team.