Responding to Bias Incidents

The BRRN may respond to reported incidents in the following ways, among others:

  • By considering whether the incident has potential free speech or academic freedom implications
  • By reviewing all reports of bias submitted to the BRRN to learn more about what happened and what kind of response may be appropriate
  • By reaching out to other offices to collaborate on responses, or referring individuals to other appropriate offices
  • By providing support, resources, and consultation to students, staff, faculty, and visitors to our campus who are harmed by bias
  • By partnering with other campus resources to support the creation of timely spaces for dialogue, education, and community in the wake of incidents of hate and bias that occur on campus, in Minnesota, across the nation, and worldwide.
  • By sharing summaries about bias incidents and trends (and patterns of bias incidents) with University leaders and the campus community
  • By recommending and supporting campus initiatives, including enhanced education and communication, to prevent bias incidents

Reports of bias incidents

BRRN members review and assess all reported bias incidents. After receiving a report, the BRRN may reach out to the reporting person to provide support and resources and to ask clarifying questions about the bias incident. It will then assess issues raised by the report and identify BRRN members and campus partners who should be involved in the discussion about how to best respond. Responses to individual bias incident reports will depend on their nature and impact on the reporting person and/or the broader campus community.

If someone is identified as having possibly engaged in a bias incident, the BRRN will consider whether it is appropriate to reach out to that person to share information about the report and offer educational or other resources. However, the BRRN has no role in determining whether University policies were violated or imposing disciplinary action.

The BRRN will handle bias incident reports with appropriate discretion and will evaluate reporting persons’ requests for confidentiality in the context of the University’s responsibility for supporting a safe and non-discriminatory working and learning environment.

Although the BRRN will respond to anonymous reports to the extent possible, it may be able to respond more effectively when it has the ability to ask follow-up questions of the reporting person.

Protocol for response to reports of bias incidents

When the BRRN receives a bias incident report, it first considers what issues the report presents and which BRRN members and campus partners should be involved in the discussion about how best to respond.

Next, the BRRN conducts an impact assessment to help determine response recommendations and actions. For example, considerations may include:

  • Which University members and communities are most directly impacted, and what support do they need (e.g., witnesses to the bias act, affinity groups, etc.)?
  • What other University members may be impacted by, or have a particular interest in this bias incident report (e.g., advisers, unit and department leaders)?
  • Are there off-campus constituencies that may be impacted by this bias incident?
  • Does the bias incident have free speech or academic freedom implications?
  • To what extent could this bias incident create a rupture in the campus community?
  • Is the incident part of a pattern of bias incidents targeting a particular identity or community?
  • Is there any historical or present-day context that should be considered?

The BRRN then provides recommendations for responses that may include:

  • Reach out to any directly impacted individuals immediately to let them know that the bias incident report has been received, provide resources for support, and learn more about their preferred response.
  • Contact students, groups, or other members of the community who may also be affected by the incident and need assistance or support. This may be done directly by the Bias Response and Referral Network or through colleagues connected to the impacted communities.
  • As appropriate, provide educational information to parties involved in the bias incident report about the University’s commitment to equity, inclusion, academic freedom, and freedom of expression.
  • Refer the bias incident report to investigative offices as appropriate, such as the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA), the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity (OSCAI), Student Unions and Activities, Office of the General Counsel (OGC), or the University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD).
  • Recommend a mediation option through the Student Conflict Resolution Center or the Office for Conflict Resolution.
  • Assist in coordinating opportunities for community dialogue and education as needed (e.g., listening sessions, trainings, town halls, panels).
  • Consider what communications are needed to effectively inform the campus community and impacted groups about bias incidents and responses.

Reports of bias incidents that could violate University policy or the law

Some bias incidents may violate University policy or the law. For example:

  • A bias incident may constitute prohibited discrimination or harassment under University policy and/or anti-discrimination laws. While the University is deeply committed to freedom of expression, it does not permit biased expression that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute discriminatory harassment.
  • A bias incident may constitute a hate crime, which is a criminal act such as arson, assault, vandalism, threats, stalking, harassment, and physical acts of violence directed at an individual or group in which the victim is intentionally selected because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, or national origin.

The BRRN will refer potential violations of University policy or law to the proper University offices and law enforcement agencies. The Bias Response and Referral Network does not have an investigatory or disciplinary role.