It is well documented that American colleges and universities are home to bias-related incidents (FBI, retrieved 5-19-2016). For example, in 2014 the FBI reported that 11% of all bias incidents (n=886) occurred on campuses. At Auburn University, a spring 2012 report of a hate crime in a residence hall resulted in a coordinated education and awareness campaign for students living on campus. In fall 2013, after students expressed concern about several incidents of bias-related harassment at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Student Government Association passed a resolution (PSSR: 13-1118-05) calling for the establishment of a streamlined and clearly communicated “process for reporting, investigating, responding to, and documenting all cases regarding harassment and discrimination on Auburn’s campus.” In spring 2016, the authors of an extensive campus climate survey report recommended that Auburn “enhance methods for reporting, responding to and preventing bias-related incidents (including microagressions) at individual, unit, and institutional levels.” After the recommendation, a team of faculty, students and staff drafted a proposal for a Bias Education and Response Team (BERT) to address these calls. The University Provost approved the proposal and Auburn’s BERT was launched in fall 2016.
BERT includes a Core Team of faculty and staff and a second-level Support Team consisting of more than 40 faculty, staff, and student representatives. The BERT Core Team includes 10 members appointed by the Provost that manage responses to reports of bias. Representatives from the following offices, departments, or divisions serve on the BERT:
- Department of Campus Safety & Security
- Office of Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity/Title IX
- Office of Inclusion and Diversity
- Student Affairs
- Student Conduct
- University Housing
- A faculty representative appointed by the Provost’s office
- A faculty representative of the Diversity Council
The Provost appoints the BERT co-chairs from among the Core Team members.
The BERT Support Team is comprised of more than 40 members representing a broad cross-section of the Auburn family. Members are appointed or nominated by their department head or organizational leader for a one-year term (January to December). The BERT Core Team taps relevant members of the BERT support team to assist in responding to specific incidents as appropriate. Members of the BERT Support Team participate in all BERT training programs and assist with supporting the efforts of the BERT to their respective constituents
- Faculty Representatives: University Senate and each college and school (Agriculture; Architecture, Design and Construction; Harbert College of Business; Education; Ginn College of Engineering; Forestry and Wildlife Sciences; Graduate School; Human Sciences; Liberal Arts; Nursing; Harrison School of Pharmacy; Sciences and Mathematics; Veterinary Medicine)
- Student Representatives: Student Government Association, Graduate Student Council, Panhellenic Association, Interfraternity Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council, Muslim Student Association, Association of Latino Auburn Students, Black Student Union, Indian Student Association, Spectrum, Hillel, Diversity Ambassadors
- Department Representatives: Office of Communication and Marketing, the Administrative and Professional Assembly, Human Resources, Women’s Resource Center, Greek Life, Enrollment Services, Libraries, Campus Dining, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, University Outreach, Facilities Division, Auburn Alumni Association, Biggio Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, Campus Recreation, Student Counseling Services, Auburn Global
First, the BERT does not supersede the work of the police or established campus investigative units (i.e. Campus Safety and Security and/or Auburn Police). The BERT connects people who report bias-related incidents with the appropriate university office including but not limited to Office of Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity/Title IX, Student Conduct, or University Housing. Similarly, the BERT is not a replacement for existing reporting or support mechanisms. In addition, the BERT does not initiate disciplinary action or impose sanctions. BERT members encourage reporting individuals to use existing reporting processes to report harassment, discrimination, and hate crimes. Lastly, the BERT does not provide crisis or emergency services.
With these limitations continuously in mind, the BERT contributes to a welcoming and inclusive campus community for all members of the Auburn family by:
- Ensuring that all members of the Auburn family have the means to report bias incidents through a secure, online reporting form.
- Serving as a safe resource for members of the Auburn family to raise concerns regarding bias-related incidents, acts of harassment, and discrimination on campus.
- Collecting information about and providing an annual report of all reported bias-related incidents affecting the Auburn University community.
- Advocating for prevention and awareness programs that educate all Auburn family members about bias-related incidents and reporting options.
- Connecting those affected by bias-related incidents with immediate and ongoing support systems.
- Working with university stakeholders to ensure transparent and open communication following the report of a bias-related incident.
- Supporting opportunities for dialogue and restorative justice, when possible, for those affected by bias-related incidents.
All BERT Core and Support Team members participated in a 90-minute in-person training program during the spring 2017 semester. The training included information about the purpose, structure of BERT, role of support team members, how to submit a report and distinctions between hate crimes, prohibited conduct, and bias incidents. During the training significant emphasis was placed on the United States Constitution’s First Amendment and how it protects speech, no matter how offensive the content. Facilitated by members of the BERT core team, attendees discussed case studies to synthesize their learning. Participant evaluations of the training learning outcomes were positive.
This report summarizes the 50 reports of bias received by Auburn University’s newly formed Bias Education and Response Team from July 1, 2016 to May 31, 2017.
- More than half (52%) of all reports were received in three months: November 2016, February 2017, and April 2017.
- Two-thirds of reports were received by email correspondence (36%) or online BERT report (32%).
- Nearly six in 10 reports indicated that the incident occurred on the Auburn campus either outdoors (29%) or in a campus building (27%).
- Two-third of reports were localized (i.e., as a comment, activity, or event that was seen or heard by few people).
- Most reports related to racial bias (54%) or religious bias (15%).
- Students submitted half of the reports: undergraduate students (40%), graduate students (10%)
- The most common response to BERT reports was to connect reporters with immediate and ongoing support systems including the Title IX office, Campus Safety and Security or Auburn Police (64% of all outcomes).
Reports by Month
Of the 50 reports received throughout the year, more than half (n=26) were received in three spike months: November 2016, February 2017, and April 2017. Five reports were received in October 2016 and May 2017 and four reports were received in July 2016 and August 2016. The fewest reports were received in January 2017, March 2017 and September 2016 and no reports were received in December 2016.
Most reports were received by email correspondence to members of the BERT core team (36%) or online BERT report (32%). Nearly a quarter of reports were referred through a police report (13%) or a housing incident report (11%). A few reports were made in person (7%) or via campus mail (2%).
A majority of reports indicated that the primary location of the event was outdoors on-campus (29%), or in an on-campus non-residential building (27%). Reports were also received from incidents occurring online (20%), in residence halls (18%) and off-campus (6%).
Nature of Reports
Thirty-eight reports (67%) were “localized” in nature because as a comment, activity, or event that was seen or heard by few people. Conversely, 24% of reports were “community” oriented because comments, activities, or events were seen or heard by many individuals either in person or through social media.
Bias involves acts, behaviors, conduct or communication against a person, motivated by the offender’s bias against age, disability, ethnicity, nationality, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. While some reports involved bias towards people related to more than one category (i.e., gender and race), the sum of all bias reported indicated that racial bias (54%) was the most often cited reason for a report, followed by religion (15%). Instances of bias related to sexual orientation (6%), nationality (6%), and ethnicity (6%), were reported less frequently as were bias related to gender (4%), gender identity (3%) and disability (1%). Four percent of reports were involved perceived bias that was not related to a protected class.
A majority of reporters were undergraduate students (40%), faculty (21%), staff (21%) and graduate students (10%). Six percent of reporters were not affiliated with Auburn University. Two percent of reports were received from contracted staff working at Auburn while no reports were received from alumni or people wishing to remain anonymous.
Summary of Outcomes
Consistent with its charge, when responding to reports, the BERT did not initiate disciplinary action or impose sanctions, nor did its efforts supersede that of the Auburn police or established campus investigative units.
The outcomes of the 50 reports are summarized into three broad categories.
- Connecting people affected by bias-related incidents with immediate and ongoing support systems (n= 32; 64%). Response included referrals to the Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity/Title IX office, Campus Safety and Security or Auburn Police.
- Supporting opportunities for dialogue and restorative justice, when possible, for those affected by bias-related incidents (n=11; 22%). Response included facilitating dialogue between willing parties regarding the reported incident and assisting with publicizing a student organized campus-wide counter event.
- Working with university stakeholders to ensure transparent and open communication following the report of a bias-related incident (n=7; 14%). Response included consulting with University leaders regarding BERT reports and discussing possible response strategies.
- Raise awareness to incorporate specific training on preventing, recognizing and responding to the top two bias report types: race (54%) and religion (15%).
- Enhance BERT’s web presence by linking from various departmental websites.
- Develop standard operating procedures (SOP’s) so other BERT Core Team members can assist in responding to incidents.
- Share annual report with Provost’s Council to inform college diversity plans.
- Clarify the BERT reporting structure.
- Review structure of BERT leadership, perhaps rotating and/or sharing responsibilities to existing core team members.
- Explore the role of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (OID) Diversity Liaisons in helping to promote BERT in the academic colleges/departments.
- Identify funding source for supporting BERT initiatives, training, marketing materials.
- Market BERT to the campus community, specifically in academic sectors including but not limited to new faculty orientation.
Last modified: 04/09/2019