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September 6, 2023 - Bias Incidents

By Dr. John Johnson, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

A flow chart showing how to report a Bias Incident at Whitman College.

“Bias is the water, not the shark.”

This quote by Dereca Blackmon, a DEI educator and consultant, provides us with language to help us understand that we are constantly exposed to biased messages, biased narratives and that bias is more the rule than the exception. Just because bias is pervasive, does not mean that biased behavior is excusable or cannot cause harm. We all have to engage in the important work of narrative correction so that our biases do not lead us to act in unintended ways that harm others in our community. 

Whitman College has a bias incident reporting system because we believe that incidents that interfere or interrupt our efforts at creating an inclusive community are important to document and address, regardless of whether or not they constitute a policy violation or meet the standard for discrimination, harassment or retaliation. A bias incident could be a message posted on a campus building or a comment directed at you during a class discussion. A bias incident could be an offensive joke or a degrading party theme.   

Our online bias reporting system can be found on the Bias Response website. Once there, you may report any incidents or behaviors that negatively impacted someone based on their age, ancestry, color, disability, gender identity or expression, genetic information, military status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or veteran status. While not protected statuses, economic (class) or size-related bias incidents can also be submitted.

If the reported incident appears to be alleging discrimination or harassment, it will be routed through a specific process for assessment and (if necessary) investigation according to state and federal regulations. If the reported incident is a policy or conduct violation and the necessary information for follow-up is provided in the report, the incident will be shared with the appropriate administrator to take the next steps. A bias incident may not necessarily meet the standard for discrimination or harassment, rise to the level of a crime or constitute a violation of campus policy. Bias incidents may, however, still contribute to creating an unwelcome community environment and are deserving of our attention. 

Reported incidents of bias are reviewed by the Director of Equity and Compliance, Cassandre Beccai, who will respond or, when prudent, refer the incident to the appropriate campus administrator to address. If you experience a bias incident, please consider utilizing our bias reporting system. The system helps us document bias, monitor the campus climate, and intervene to de-escalate community concerns. Your reports, which can be submitted anonymously, also helps us identify areas where more substantive institutional interventions may be necessary to address bias and ensure that Whitman is an inclusive and welcoming community for all.

Published on Sep 6, 2023
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