Is bias an issue at Dickinson?

Yes. Dickinson is a microcosm of society which means racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, genderphobia, transphobia, and other forms of bias impact our campus community. We strive for an inclusive and respectful community, but students will always have conflicts and tensions that adhere to the College’s definition of bias. Our diverse body of students possess a range of racial, ethnic, sexual, geographic, religious and class identities, among others and sometimes struggle to co-exist.

Students have shared their experiences with campus climate issues via:

We want every member of our community to feel welcomed and valued. Biased interactions conflict with this aim, and conflict with our community values.

Students are free to argue, debate, discuss, and disagree passionately as they develop skills to engage civilly. When tensions escalate into more serious behaviors students are encouraged to seek institutional support toward resolution. These tensions may manifest themselves in the form of covert behaviors (e.g., microaggressions) and more overt expressions (e.g., macroaggressions,). While the intent of many of these behaviors, is not to hurt, disparage or insult, the impact, nonetheless, is often very painful and devaluing.

What happens when I file a bias incident reporting form?
  • The Bias Incident Reporting Form is a confidential online form. When an incident is filed its contents are viewable to the BERT coordinator and the vice president for Student Life.
  • The VP for Student Life responds to forms regarding student and staff or faculty incidents. The BERT coordinator responds to forms regarding student-student incidents.
  • Initially, the BERT responder assesses whether the incident adheres to the college’s definition of bias. If it does not, the reporting individual will receive an email response outlining why the incident falls outside of the scope of BERT. The responder may recommend other options.
  • If an incident does adhere to the college’s definition of bias, the reporter will receive an email from the BERT responder. The responder may consult with relevant personnel before sending the email including the assistant dean of Student Conduct, the provost, the VP/dean of students, and/or other personnel who can offer informed insight on the nature of the bias concern.
  • All responses are reporter-centered; notably, reporters are provided a variety of response options regarding alleged perpetrators of bias that include, but are not limited to: no action, a mediated conversation between the bias reporter and perpetrator(s), and the formal processes of the conduct system.
  • Each incident is addressed on a case-by-case basis. There is no generic response formula as a variety of dynamics may be present in any given situation.
What is the value of BERT in relation to other support resources?

Those experiencing bias benefit from having a direct way to report incidents and the Bias Incident Reporting form offers the most efficient and central way to manage these incidents. Once a report is received BERT responders can assess the most appropriate resources. This requires assessing whether the incident qualifies as bias, reaching out to the filer to learn more details, and offering appropriate resources. Once BERT responders have determined suitable options the filer is notified of these options.

Addressing bias incidents effectively requires culturally competent responders with experience and training. Cultural issues are typically resolved through a combination of conversation, mediation, and/or education.

Dickinson’s Student Conduct, on-call teams, the Department of Public Safety (DPS),  Residence Life & Housing, and Wellness Center staff are all valuable support resources for students, but historically, their primary focus is on other matters, making BERT the most effective way Dickinson coordinates responses to bias.

  • The Student Conduct Team becomes involved if a bias report involves a student who has violated community standards.
  • If a bias incident is found to be a hate crime, DPS will be notified because hate crimes violate state and federal laws. Bias incidents do not necessitate the same level of response as a crime.
  • On-call administrators typically focus on issues related to health, wellness, and other emergencies. The established protocol is for on-call administrators to refer students who experience bias to BERT for resolution. On-call administrators serve either a four-day week or three-day weekend cycles. This timeframe is not sufficient for responding to and addressing bias incidents adequately, since responding is a multi-step process.
  • Residence Life & Housing student personnel, including RAs, CAs, and HAMs, typically respond to incidents occurring in residence halls. These students have received training on recognizing and reporting bias and can advise students generally, but many incidents escalate and require professional staff with a different degree of training, experience, and reporting obligations. 

Having a confidential form allows Dickinson to track the number and nature of incidents systematically. This data enriches ways the campus can offer education and support calibrated to Dickinson’s specific cultural needs. Bias incidents at Dickinson typically occur in relation to social identity and multiple members of the Office of Equity & Inclusivity (the Landis offices) that focus on social identity serve on BERT.

A number of policies currently exist that affirm the college's goal to maintain a discrimination- and bias-free environment. Please note, the Bias Incident Protocol and any mechanism created by it (e.g., BERT) are intended to serve as a resource for those seeking assistance in navigating these existing policies and procedures of the college, where such exist, and not to supersede policies or procedures already in place. For situations not covered by existing college policies and procedures, the protocol and related mechanisms are intended to assist Dickinsonians in determining their options for redress and to support them as they seek resolution.

How may I report a bias incident?

There are several methods for reporting. You may use the Bias Incident Reporting Form, talk with the BERT coordinator or the vice president for Student Life, or use the DPS Tips line.

Will my report be confidential?

The term “confidential” means different things to different people. With respect to bias response incidents, “confidentiality” means that information shared by an individual with designated campus or community professionals cannot be revealed to any other individual without the express permission of the individual who provided the information. The campus and community professionals who must maintain confidentiality include medical providers, mental health providers, ordained clergy, and rape crisis counselors, all of whom have privileged confidentiality recognized by law. These individuals are prohibited from breaking confidentiality unless there is an imminent threat of harm to self or others, or the conduct involves suspected abuse of a minor. Students or employees wishing to seek completely confidential assistance with a bias incident without making a report to the College may do so in the following ways. Students may seek confidential assistance on campus through the Wellness Center. Employees may seek confidential assistance through the Employee Assistance Program.

Students and employees are encouraged to report information regarding bias incidents to designated employees of the college, as set forth above. An employee who receives such a report may not hold the matter in confidence but will hold it privately. Privacy generally means that information related to a bias incident report will only be shared with a limited circle of individuals. The use of this information is limited to those college employees who “need to know” in order to assist in the active review and/or resolution of the complaint.

While not bound by confidentiality, these individuals will be discreet and will respect the privacy of all individuals involved in the process. The College designates which Dickinson employees have a legitimate need to know about individual conduct complaints pursuant to FERPA and will share information accordingly.

May I report a bias incident anonymously?

Anonymous reports of bias incidents can be made to DPS. Depending on the amount of information detailing the alleged incidents or identifying the alleged individual(s) responsible, the College’s ability to respond may be limited. The Anonymous Tips site should not be used for emergency or crisis situations needing an immediate Public Safety, law enforcement or medical emergency response. While DPS regularly follows up on all information or messages sent through the Anonymous Tips site, this site is not monitored 24 hours a day. In the event of an emergency, individuals are advised to call 911.

If no bias is found following a report, may I be found responsible for making a false report?

Any individual who provides intentionally or maliciously false information as part of a report or investigation under this policy will be subject to discipline under the Community Standards or employee policies. This provision does not apply to a good faith report that is later not substantiated or proven by a preponderance of the evidence.

How are photos and videos used when they are uploaded as part of an incident report?

Photos and images are reviewed carefully and taken into consideration in the larger context of an incident. Reporters typically use these to illustrate an aspect of an incident. Common examples include screenshots and photos of vandalized property. Because incident responses typically involve email and in-person communication physical evidence is one branch of the larger response to an incident.

Where do bias incidents occur most frequently? How might it impact the academic environment?

Bias incidents typically occur between students in campus social spaces (such as residence halls) and often happen during evening hours. BERT is not a governing body and does not impact what faculty teach or how students learn. Students have a variety of pre-existing mechanisms to report classroom concerns. For example, students can consult the Student Complaints of Improper Discharge of College Responsibilities by Faculty policy outlined in the Academic Handbook

How does BERT educate the community about challenging and preventing bias?

BERT is one of several college entities focused on educating the community about bias and inclusion. Members of BERT often lead or co-sponsor implicit bias education sessions and trainings for students, faculty, and staff, including specific training for the staff of Residence Life & Housing. Various members of BERT are involved in programming, training, and presentations focused on helping campus community members develop the awareness, skills, and knowledge to engage inclusively.