The following clarifications of definitions are meant to help students, faculty, and staff understand the serious offenses that may grow out of intolerance. Our policies, handbooks, and practices — as well as the laws — are provided or referenced here to help everyone understand where we stand as a community and how we pursue violations and help those affected.
We encourage exploration and dialogue about diversity through the guidance provided by numerous Widener professionals.
What are bias incidents?
A bias incident is conduct, speech, or expression that is motivated by bias or prejudice but doesn’t involve a criminal act. Bias incidents may, however, violate campus disciplinary or harassment policies. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a bias incident is the use of degrading language and slurs directed toward people of color, women, members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community, people with disabilities, members of religious groups, and others who belong to groups that have traditionally been marginalized (“Hate Crimes on Campus: The Problem and Efforts to Confront It,” 2001).
What are hate crimes?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines a hate crime as a criminal act [such as simple or physical assault, arson, or vandalism] motivated by bias, particularly against any given race, nationality, or ethnicity, religion, disability, or sexual orientation (Violent Crime: What’s Happening on Campuses and How Colleges Respond, 2004). In addition, any writing, including graffiti, e-mail, or even anonymous letters, that threatens or encourages violence toward an individual or group of people may also be a hate crime.
What do I do if I think a hate crime or bias incident has taken place?
- Do not confront the person you think committed the act.
- Call Campus Safety immediately at (610) 499-4200, or the police at 911 if there is an immediate safety concern or if you think a crime has been committed.
- Do not disturb a crime scene or remove/destroy evidence such as graffiti. Campus Safety officers or the police may need to gather evidence.
- Tell someone you trust — a professor, a staff member, a resident assistant. Ask that person to help you file a report under the Student Code of Conduct or the university’s Discrimination and Harassment Codes. Here are some other university personnel who can assist you.
What is the process of reporting an on-campus incident?
- You should begin by telling your resident assistant, the assistant dean of residence life, the dean of students, a counselor, adviser, faculty member, or some other Widener professional what has happened. After speaking with you, that person informs his/her supervisor that a hate crime or bias incident has occurred.
- A Widener professional will support you with an initial telephone call to the Office of Campus Safety, whose officers will be dispatched to the scene to talk with you, gather evidence, and begin an investigation.
- The officers may ask you to provide the message board, note, or other item of evidence if such exists.
- A professional staff member meets with you to learn the specifics of the incident and gain a better understanding of your personal feelings, reactions, and wishes. At your request, a university staff member from the Counseling Center, Student Affairs, and/or other relevant university area is contacted to provide additional assistance.
- After gathering all pertinent information from you, the professional completes a written report that will be shared with Campus Safety.
- Taking into account your personal feelings, reactions, and wishes, the professional may implement or recommend that others implement activities responding to the incident. These activities may include but are not limited to a floor or hall meeting, educational programming, a letter or a similar communication to the floor/hall addressing the situation, and/or judicial proceedings.
What is done to help the victim of a hate crime or bias incident?
The university provides support, including counseling if necessary, and help in coping with problems that result from incidents of hate crimes or bias incidents.
What happens if someone is found guilty of committing a bias incident?
Alleged perpetrators involved in the incident will be adjudicated according to the university’s Student Code of Conduct or the Discrimination and Harassment Codes. A student found guilty of committing such an act could receive a penalty ranging from a disciplinary warning to expulsion from the university.
What happens if someone is found guilty of committing a hate crime?
Alleged perpetrators involved in the incident will be adjudicated according to the university’s Student Code of Conduct or the Discrimination and Harassment Codes. A student found guilty of committing such an act could receive a penalty ranging from a disciplinary warning to expulsion from the university. Alleged perpetrators may also be subject to state civil and criminal penalties.
Moreover, many states as well as the federal government have special statutes allowing any crime motivated by hate toward the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity of an individual or group to carry criminal charges in addition to those of the original crime. Consequently, the person found guilty of a hate crime may also face criminal penalties that may include fines or even jail.
What can I do to help prevent these kinds of things from happening?
All students are encouraged to access the resources offered by the Multicultural Student Affairs office. Through this office, students can learn about opportunities to join or support student groups whose members work to educate, dispel myths, and sensitize the university community to the value of our differences.