Bias‐Related Incident Protocol

Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech School: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Statement Rating: Yellow Last updated: July 17, 2017

Relevant excerpt

Bias incidents are expressions against a person or group because of the person’s or group’s age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law.

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  • Examples of bias‐related conduct include:
    Words or actions that contradict the spirit of the Principles of Community
  • Jokes that are demeaning to a particular group of people
  • Holding a “date” or “slave” auction
  • Performing a skit in which participants use blackface or other ethnic group makeup or props
  • Hosting a culturally themed party
  • Assuming characteristics of a minority group for advertising
  • Posting flyers that contain demeaning language or images.

Virginia Tech recognizes two categories of bias incidents. An incident does not need to meet all criteria listed below.

Localized bias incident:

  • Seen or heard by few people
  • No violation of university policy
  • No interest from media
  • Cannot be investigated as a hate crime.

Community bias incident:

  • Seen or heard by many
  • Violates university policy
  • Media and/or interest from outside the university community
  • Can be investigated as a hate crime.

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Response is driven by the two categories of bias‐related incidents listed above.

Localized Bias Incident = Localized Response

  • Incidents that are localized or contained within a limited area of campus and seen or heard by a limited number of people.
  • For a localized bias‐related incident (i.e., occurring within a limited area of campus, such as a residence hall bathroom), the administrator closest to the incident will address the issue, facilitate a response that resonates with the student or group of students involved, and issue a community statement if appropriate.

Community Bias Incident = Community Response

  • Incidents that are widely known and/or violate policy will be processed by a Core Response Team.
  • For a community bias‐related incident, the Core Response Team will determine if the incident can be considered a crime and whether a message from university administration is appropriate. This Core Response Team will be called together as soon as feasible when reports are shared with the Dean of Students Office. The Core Response Team will be called upon for all such incidents.

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Free Speech: Virginia Tech is a place where the free exchange of ideas is valued and every person’s perspective is important. Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by many state constitutions and state and federal laws. Free speech provisions protect many forms of intolerant statements, expressions, and conduct.   Depending on the circumstances, a bias‐related incident may not be a crime. In certain contexts, courts have found hate speech to be protected even though many in the university community find it repugnant. If these expressions are inconsistent with Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community, they may present an educational opportunity for better understanding protected speech and the role of tolerance in the campus community.   Some bias‐related incidents may violate the Student Code of Conduct and may be adjudicated through the student conduct system. Virginia Tech cannot adjudicate matters that are deemed protected speech. Behavior that is discriminatory or otherwise hurtful to members of the community is addressed through educational interventions. Virginia Tech is committed to stopping these behaviors. Because some incidents may be beyond the reach of policy and laws, it is imperative that the university respond as a unified community to denounce such behavior. Acts of intolerance require all members of the university community to uphold the shared values outlined in the Virginia Tech Principles of Community. Regardless of whether incidents violate policy or are inappropriate or insensitive, it is crucial that Virginia Tech respond in a timely and consistent manner. All parties involved ‐‐ those who report such incidents as well as those accused ‐‐ will be treated with respect, consideration, and concern. Those involved will be given the opportunity to civilly discuss the incident with a trained professional and will be apprised of their options for resolving the incident.

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