Trends and Issues in Higher Ed

April 28, 2017

Developing new means for reporting and addressing bias

A critical step toward addressing bias at an institutional level is understanding exactly how individual students, faculty and staff experience bias, and in what ways. In early 2015, Denzil Suite, vice president of Student Life, and Sheila Edwards Lange, former vice president for OMA&D created a task force to assess how bias affects campus community members. The task force, chaired by Q Center Director Jen Self, proposed creating a tool for reporting and addressing incidents efficiently. Based on their proposal, Student Life, OMA&D and Undergraduate Academic Affairs collaborated to launch the Bias Incident Reporting tool in 2016.

The tool allows users to report incidents through an online form, which is reviewed within two business days by a member of the Bias Advisory Committee, a group of representatives from multiple units, including students. The form asks for details on the incident and allows for relevant uploads such as screenshots or videos. Users can either submit anonymous reports or provide an email address to which the tool automatically sends an acknowledgment. Depending on the particulars and the wishes expressed by the reporting individual, unless anonymous, the committee then reaches out to that person to provide resource and support information. Committee member Ellen Taylor, associate vice president for Student Life, says the tool is a “mechanism for thoughtful institutional approaches, enabling us to accurately and compellingly capture the impact of bias incidents.”


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To report a bias incident, please visit:

Responses to reports vary by case, Taylor says. “Some bias incidents are crimes, some are violations of university policy, and some are neither. The committee’s goal is to gather information about bias incidents on both sides of those lines and support members of the community in making an official report to police, when relevant, or in addressing the incident in other ways.”

Taylor emphasizes that hearing from multiple perspectives is crucial to both understanding and addressing bias on campus. The tool alerts UW leadership to the frequency, form and impact of bias events. And the tool and the advisory committee rely on interdepartmental problem-solving and partnership. “Bias affects everyone and our goal of creating an increasingly inclusive campus environment requires an across-the-board commitment,” says Taylor. How the committee incorporates and balances diverse voices is, she notes, “an example of the kind of culture we want to foster: one where differences are respectfully and openly aired and common ground is sought.”