Bias Incident Response

At the George Washington University, we believe that diversity and inclusion are crucial to an educational institution's pursuit of excellence in learning, research, and service. We strive to build a community of respect for all community members. Acts of bias, hate, or discrimination are anathema to the university’s commitment to educating citizen leaders equipped to thrive and to serve in our increasingly diverse and global society.

The Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) is a group of committed administrators from the Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement; Enrollment and the Student Experience; and other campus partners. While the BIRT is not authorized to sanction any accused persons, they are committed to proactively responding to instances of bias in the following ways:

  • Support students who are targets or witnesses of hate or bias incidents
  • Refer students to available campus resources and services including units that will conduct formal investigations
  • Promote dialogue within the campus community about the impact of bias
  • Advocate for new programs, initiatives, policies, and services that will promote a more inclusive GW community
     

Report a bias-related act

 

What is bias?

Bias is the personal, unreasoned judgment or attitude that inclines an individual to treat someone negatively because of their real or perceived

  • Age
  • Color
  • Disability
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Marital status
  • Military or veteran status
  • National origin
  • Personal appearance
  • Political affiliation
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Any other unlawful basis

Together these are defined as "Protected Characteristics."

What is a bias-related act?

Generally bias-related acts are characterized by some expression of hate or bias against a particular group, or towards and individual because of their membership (or perceived membership) in that group.  Bias incidents may range from acts considered to be offensive to actions that cause harm.

Although bias-related acts sometimes constitue discrimination (as defined under the University's Equal Opportunity Policy), or hate crimes (as defined by federal, state or local law), not all bias incidents rise to the level of discrimination or a hate crime.  

Bias acts may be verbal, written, or contained in an image, or physical in nature. These behaviors often contribute to creating an unsafe or unwelcoming environment for individuals and social identity groups. Acts can qualify as bias acts even when delivered with humorous intent or presented as a joke or a prank.

What is a hate crime?

Under the District of Columbia’s Bias-Related Crime Act of 1989 (D.C. Official Code § 22-3700 et. seq.), a hate crime is a criminal act or attempted criminal act that demonstrates an accused’s prejudice based on protected characteristics.

Hate crimes under various federal laws have similar definitions. Speech that does not involve a crime, is not a hate crime, regardless of how offensive it may be.

To report a hate crime to law enforcement, please use one of the methods below.

By Phone:

Foggy Bottom Campus: 202-994-6110

Mount Vernon Campus: 202-242-6110

Virginia Science and Technology Campus: 202-994-6110

In an Emergency:

Foggy Bottom Campus: 202-994-6111

Mount Vernon Campus: 202-242-6111

Virginia Science and Technology Campus: 911

In Person:

George Washington Police Department

Rome Hall 801 22nd Street, NW, Suite 101

Washington, DC 20052

What is the difference between a bias-related act and a hate crime?

Bias-related acts and hate crimes both involve behavior that is motivated by bias. However, there are important distinctions between them.

Bias-related acts are essentially prejudiced behaviors toward individuals because of their actual or perceived membership in a particular protected class. Some bias-related acts are not university policy violations or hate crimes. Even when offenders are not aware of bias, do not intend to offend others, or do not violate law or university policy, bias may be revealed that is worthy of a response and/or an opportunity for education. Bias-related acts are antithetical to the university's values of fundamental human dignity and equality, and they require the commitment of the university community to successfully address them.

Examples of bias-related acts may include:

  • Name calling; using a racial, ethnic or other slur to identify someone; or using degrading language
  • Creating racist or derogatory images/drawings
  • Imitating someone with a disability, or imitating someone's cultural norm or practice
  • Making jokes or using stereotypes when talking to someone
  • Use of dehumanizing, derogatory, or insulting  language based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender or disability in person, in writing, on social media, on whiteboards.

A hate crime is a violation of the law and could be investigated by GW Police and/or other law enforcement agencies.  Members of the GW community may be held accountable for such actions under the Code of Student Conduct or other relevant polices, in addition to action taken through the legal system.

Hate crimes are also motivated by bias, but in addition they include a definable crime such as:

  • a threat of violence
  • property damage
  • personal injury
  • or other illegal conduct

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is adverse treatment of an individual based on a protected characteristic, rather than individual merit. Examples of conduct that can constitute discrimination if based on an individual’s protected characteristic include but are not limited to:

  • Singling out or targeting an individual for different or less favorable treatment (e.g., more severe discipline, denial of promotion) because of their protected characteristic
  • Failing or refusing to hire an individual because of their protected characteristic
  • Failing or refusing to allow an individual to participate in a student organization or activity based on their protected characteristic
  • Terminating an individual from employment or an educational program based on their protected characteristic.

I want to initiate a disciplinary process for discrimination. How do I do that? Can BIRT help with that?

The BIRT team will not handle disciplinary processes for the university.  That said there are a number of offices dedicated to providing support for members of our community who want to pursue a disciplinary process.  Instructions for seeking a disciplinary process are listed below:

Students can initiate a disciplinary process for discrimination by bringing their concerns to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

Call: 202-994-6757

Email: [email protected]

Website:  https://studentconduct.gwu.edu/student-rights-responsibilities

Employees should bring their concerns about the conduct of a non-faculty employee to the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Employee Relations (EEO/ER Office).

Call: 202-994-9656

Email: [email protected]

Website:  https://hr.gwu.edu/equal-employment-opportunity

In person: 2033 K Street, NW, Suite 205, Washington, DC 20006

Employees should bring their concerns about the conduct of faculty member to the Office for Faculty Affairs.

Call:  202-994-5884

Email:  [email protected]

In person:  1918 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052

Allegations will be reviewed and/or investigated by the Office for Faculty Affairs or designee.  

Employees should bring their concerns about the conduct of a student to the Office of Students Rights and Responsibilities.

Call:  202-994-6757

Email:  [email protected]

Website:  https://studentconduct.gwu.edu/student-rights-responsibilities

Academic Freedom

The university is committed to the principles of academic freedom, including free inquiry and free expression and the vigorous discussion and debate on which the advancement of the university’s educational mission depends. Incidents of bias, hate, or discrimination that violate the university’s Code of Student Conduct or other university rules, regulations, and policies are not legally protected expressions, are not the proper exercise of academic freedom, and may be grounds for university disciplinary action.  Such incidents are taken seriously by the university and the campus community.

All members of the university community should recognize that bias, hate, or acts of discrimination impede one’s ability to participate fully in the community and compromise the integrity of the university.  As community members we strive to treat all members with respect and dignity.