Bias motivated crimes/harassment are targeted acts committed against a person or their property because of that person’s real or perceived race, color, religion, nationality, country of origin, disability, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Bias related crimes/harassment are different from other acts as they have an effect that goes beyond only the individual attacked. These type of acts often effect on an entire community of people who identify with the targeted social group.
Laws exist at both the Michigan and National level covering more severe bias related crimes. If you want to know more specific information about how the laws are interpreted feel free to look up Michigan’s Ethnic Intimidation Act, the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Law, 1994 Federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, and the 2009 Federal Matthew Shepard Act.
Smaller bias related incidents that violate University policy are considerably more common on college campuses than actual legal crimes. University policies relating to students, faculty and staff exist to create a safe environment for learning, work and research. Take some time to familiarize yourself with university policies on staff/faculty and student behavior. When working with a person you believe to be a victim of a bias motivated act they will likely experience a wide range of emotions and benefit from a thoughtful and caring response.
When you are aware that a student has experienced a bias motivated crime/harassment:
- See the student in private.
- Be aware that the student may be experiencing a wide range of emotions including shame, anger, fear, and denial.
- Advise the person to contact Institutional Equity (906) 487-3310. If they are uncomfortable doing it alone volunteer to accompany them.
- If the incident is related to a student be sure to report the incident to the Dean of Students Office (906) 487-2212. Again, if the person is uncomfortable doing it alone, accompany them.
- If you are unsure if the incident is criminal in nature advise the person that they may report the incident to Public Safety and Police Services (906) 487-2216. Again, if the person is uncomfortable doing it alone, accompany them.
- Try to explain or get caught up in the technical differences between a “hate crime” and harassment. These differences are generally immaterial to the feelings being experienced by the person and his/her need for support and information.
- Minimize the situation or indiscriminately share information about the crime or incident with others without the permission of the person.
- Express personal biases.
This page was adapted with permission from material developed by the University of California, Santa Barbara.