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Bias Education and Response

American University takes seriously its responsibility to appropriately balance its core values of free inquiry (including freedom of expression and dissent) and diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion. On campus and across the nation, the need to live up to these values has only become more pressing. It is also true that these values may sometimes be in conflict. In balancing these values, we are guided by factors including safety, the rights of others, normal functioning of the university, and an accessible living learning environment.

Below, you will find further information about bias, bias related acts, and how the University will respond if it becomes aware of a bias related incident. All community members should treat each other with dignity and respect. When members of our community fall short, those impacted are encouraged to seek the support of campus resources and report their concerns to the appropriate office.

Bias is the personal, unreasoned judgment or attitude that inclines an individual to treat someone negatively because of their real or perceived race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, personal appearance, gender identity and expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, source of income, veteran status, or genetic information.

A bias related act is an action or behavior that express hostility against a person, property or group because of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, personal appearance, gender identity and expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, source of income, veteran status, or genetic information.

Bias acts may be verbal, graphic or physical in nature. These behaviors often contribute to or create an unsafe or unwelcoming environment. Incidents qualify as bias incidents even when delivered with humorous intent or presented as a joke or a prank.

Examples of bias-related incidents may include

  • Name calling; using a racial, ethnic or other slur to identify someone; or using degrading language
  • Creating racist or derogatory graffiti or images/drawings
  • Imitating someone with a disability, or imitating someone's cultural norm or practice
  • Making jokes or using stereotypes when talking to someone
  • Calling someone the n-word, f-word, or r-word in person, in writing, on social media, on whiteboards, etc.

Bias-related acts that are also covered by the University’s Student Conduct Code or Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policy (e.g. bias-motivated vandalism, harassment, assault, etc.) will be subject to the processes and accountability through these policies.

Bias, that does not violate a University policy will generally be addressed through educational interventions.

Students, staff and faculty who report bias-related acts can expect that their report will be acknowledged within 48 hours, and that a University official will be assigned to meet with the reporter to collect details of the bias-related act and to discuss options for addressing the behavior. In situations where the accused may be personally identified, privacy laws and confidentiality of student and employee records may prevent the University from disclosing specific details about the resolution of a complaint.

View a flowchart of the bias incident reporting process.

The Student Conduct Code provides under VIII. Prohibited Conduct Motivated by Bias:

Bias-related incidents are counter to the university’s commitment to fostering an inclusive community based on mutual respect. Bias-related incidents are addressed through the Student Conduct Code, only when accompanied by a form of prohibited conduct in Section VI (e.g. vandalism, harassment, violence). Students found responsible for bias-related prohibited conduct will have this included as a factor in determining sanctions.

Also, under XVII. Sanctions

Evidence that the respondent’s conduct was motivated by bias towards an individual or group on the basis of real or perceived, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy or parenting, age, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, personal appearance, gender identity and expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, source of income, veteran status, an individual’s genetic information or any other bases under federal and/or local law.(See Section V. Definitions for “Bias Incident.”)

The District of Columbia's Bias-Related Crime Act of 1989 defines a bias-related crime (i.e., hate crime) as a criminal act and/or attempting, aiding, abetting, advising, inciting, conniving, or conspiring to commit a criminal act (such as arson, assault, burglary, injury to property, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, rape, robbery, theft, or unlawful entry) based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibility, homelessness, physical disability, matriculation, or political affiliation of a victim of a criminal act. Hate crimes under various federal laws have similar definitions. Most speech is not a hate crime, regardless of how offensive it may be.

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

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

Hate crimes are also motivated by bias, but they include a definable crime such as a threat of violence, property damage, personal injury, or other illegal conduct. A hate crime is a violation of the law and will be investigated by University Police and/or other law enforcement agencies.

A hate crime is a violation of the law and will be investigated by University Police and/or other law enforcement agencies as necessary and appropriate. To report a hate crime, contact University Police at 202-885-3636.

Report Bias

  • Students - report a bias incident using the link above to the myAU portal.Questions about filing a complaint and/or AU's procedures for addressing bias incidents may be addressed to the Office of the Dean of Students at 202-885-3300 or dos@american.edu.
  • Law Students - contact the Associate Dean, Student Affairs: djaffe@wcl.american.edu
  • Staff, University Administrators, University Guests, or Contractors - contact the AVP of Human Resources: employeerelations@american.edu
  • Faculty Member or Faculty Administrator - contact the Dean of Faculty: deanoffaculty@american.edu

AU Community Commitment