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2016-17 Academic Year Reports of Student-Target Bias-Related Incidents

September 8, 2017

Commitment to Inclusion and Diversity - The University of Virginia supports and promotes an inclusive and welcoming environment that embraces the full spectrum of human attributes, perspectives, and disciplines. We have found that when people of different backgrounds come together, they exchange ideas, question assumptions (including their own), and broaden the horizons for us all.  A community rich in diversity affords every member equal respect and provides a forum for understanding our differences as well as our commonalities.

Reporting Tools and Relevant University Policies

The University encourages prompt reporting of bias-related incidents so that it can evaluate the reported information to determine if the alleged conduct may violate University policy, including the Standards of Conduct, the Preventing and Addressing Discrimination and Harassment policy (“PADH”), the Preventing and Addressing Retaliation policy (“PAR”), or the Policy on Sexual and Gender-based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence (“Title IX policy”). In certain circumstances, a report may also be referred to local law enforcement to determine whether an independent investigation for violation(s) of criminal law is warranted.

Students, faculty members, staff and others in the community may report an incident they believe to be a bias-motivated or targeted action using the University’s Just Report It (“JRI”) system.  When a report is submitted using JRI, it is promptly reviewed by the professional staff member in the Office of the Dean of Students (“ODOS”) or Office of African-American Affairs (“OAAA”) who is serving as the dean-on-call, as well as staff in the Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (“EOCR”).  The dean-on-call will reach out to the reporter (if self-identified) to obtain any relevant information in the possession of the reporter and to offer support.  Other University offices may also be notified of the report as appropriate, such as the Office for Diversity and Equity (“ODE”) and the University Police Department

Speech Protected Under the First Amendment

Although the expression of an idea or point of view may be offensive or inflammatory to some, it may not be a violation of law or University policy.  The University values and embraces the ideals of freedom of thought and expression, which must be vitally sustained in a community of scholars.  While these freedoms protect controversial ideas and differing views -- and sometimes even offensive or hurtful words -- they do not protect “true threats” or “incitement” as defined by federal courts, targeted harassment that violates federal law, state law or University policy, or acts of misconduct which violate criminal law or University policy.

A report characterized by the reporter as bias-motivated or targeted action may, upon review, involve speech or ideas that are protected under the U.S. Constitution.  In such cases, the University may initially inquire into or gather the relevant information to enable an informed determination of whether the conduct constitutes protected speech or expression.  Disciplinary action will not be imposed for conduct that constitutes protected speech or expression.  In some cases, there may be a mix of protected speech or expression and actionable conduct (for example, protected speech painted without permission on the wall of a building), resulting in the University taking disciplinary action for the non-expressive conduct (in this example, vandalism of property).

University Resources

The dean-on-call may be reached after hours by calling the University Police non-emergency number (434-924-7166) and asking to be put into contact with the dean-on-call.  The University’s Diversity Council includes representatives from the faculty, students and administration, and meets periodically “to discuss and consider forward-looking, proactive strategies, methods, and approaches that will help to make UVA a more diverse and welcoming environment at all levels.”  Multicultural Student Services in ODOS and the staff in OAAA provide direct outreach and support to students from a diverse array of minority communities on Grounds.  EOCR, which includes Title IX staff, provides education, training and information regarding reporting and resolution options under the PADH, PAR and Title IX policies.  The Counseling and Psychological Services (“CAPS”) unit of Student Health is another good resource for students who wish to discuss the personal impact of an incident of bias in a confidential setting.  University Police, Charlottesville Police and Albemarle County Police are available to receive reports of crimes or actions believed to violate criminal law.

How the University Classifies Bias Reports Received

As explained on the Just Report It website, the University defines “bias” as “a threat or act of harassment or intimidation – verbal, written or physical – which is personally directed against or targets a University of Virginia student because of that student’s age, color, disability, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status or family medical or genetic information.”[1]  Using this definition, the University classifies reports of perceived bias received via JRI into one of four categories:

  • Category 1:  Reports alleging conduct that meets the definition of “bias” as set forth above and on the JRI website.
  • Category 2:  Reports alleging conduct that is not “personally directed against or targets” an identified student and thus does not meet the University’s definition of “bias,” although the reports describe “a threat or act of harassment or intimidation” that is directed against or targets a group based on one or more protected characteristics described in the University’s definition.
  • Category 3:  Reports alleging conduct that, upon review: (a) does not appear to involve any bias-motivated conduct, or (b) involves otherwise constitutionally protected speech.
  • Category 4:  Reports that do not describe the alleged conduct with sufficient detail to allow evaluation, and such information is not readily ascertainable by the University by other means.

Summary of Bias Reports Received During the 2016-17 Academic Year

Below is a summary of all incidents reported via JRI as “bias” in the opinion of the reporting student, faculty, staff or community member from August 16, 2016 through August 15, 2017 (the 2016-17 academic year).[2]

Reports by Month (Incident Date): [3]

            *August 16-31, 2016: 1

           *September 2016: 13

            *October 2016: 12

            *November 2016: 21

            *December 2016: 2

            *January 2017: 8

             *February 2017: 8

             *March 2017: 3

             *April 2017: 6

             *May 2017: 2

             *June 2017: 1

             *July 2017: 1

             *August 1-15, 2017: 2

                       

*Category 1: Reports alleging “a threat or act of harassment or intimidation – verbal, written or physical – which is personally directed against or targets a University of Virginia student because of that student’s age, color, disability, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status or family medical or genetic information.”  There are twenty-seven (27) reports received that describe conduct defined by the University as motivated by bias. [4]

Reported Bias Target:

*Sexual Orientation/Identity: 9

            *Race: 9

            *National/Ethnic Origin: 8

            *Religion: 3

*Political Affiliation: 2

            *Gender: 1

Reported Conduct Type:

            *Verbal Harassment: 19

            *Written/Online Harassment: 7

            *Discriminatory Treatment: 1

            *Threats: 1

            *Vandalism: 1

Reported Location:

            *Upper-Class/Graduate Residence: 1

            *First Year Residence: 2

            *Residential College: 4

            *Undisclosed On-Grounds Residence: 1

            *Academic Building: 1

            *Public Space On-Grounds: 6

            *Public Space Off-Grounds: 11

            *Online/Internet: 1

 

Reports Submitted Anonymously: 3

Alleged Perpetrator(s) Unknown:[5] 21

Alleged Perpetrator(s) Identified:[6] 6

 

*Category 2: Twelve (12) reports describe conduct that is not “personally directed against or targets” an identified student and thus does not meet the University’s definition of “bias,” although the reports describe “a threat or act of harassment or intimidation” that is directed against or targets a group based on one or more protected characteristics described in the University’s definition.

Reported Bias Target:

            *Race: 6

            *Religion: 3

            *Sexual Orientation/Identity: 3

            *National/Ethnic Origin: 1

Reported Conduct Type:

            *Verbal Harassment: 6

            *Written/Online Harassment: 5

            *Property Damage: 1

Reported Location:

            *First Year Residence: 1

            *Academic Building: 2

            *Public Space On-Grounds: 4

            *Off-Grounds Residence: 1

            *Public Space Off-Grounds: 2

            *Online/Internet:  2

 

Reports Submitted Anonymously: 5

Alleged Perpetrator(s) Unknown: 7

Alleged Perpetrator(s) Identified: 5

 

*Category 3: Twenty-six (26) reports, upon review: (a) do not appear to involve any bias-motivated conduct; or (b) involve otherwise constitutionally protected speech.

Reported Bias Target:

            *Race: 8

*Political Affiliation: 6

            *Sexual Orientation/Identity: 3

            *National/Ethnic Origin: 3

            *Gender: 3

            *Undisclosed: 3

Reported Conduct Type:

            *Verbal Harassment: 13

            *Written/Online Harassment: 9

            *Discriminatory Treatment: 2

            *Insensitive Actions: [7] 2

Reported Location:

            *Upper-Class Residence: 2

            *First Year Residence: 6

            *Public Space On-Grounds: 8

            *Off-Grounds Residence: 2

            *Public Space Off-Grounds: 4

            *Greek Property Off-Grounds: 2

            *Undisclosed: 1

            *Online/Internet: 1

 

Reports Submitted Anonymously: 6

Alleged Perpetrator(s) Unknown: 13

Alleged Perpetrator(s) Identified: 13

           

*Category 4: Fifteen (15) reports do not describe conduct with sufficient detail to allow evaluation by the University and such information is not readily ascertainable by other means.

Reported Bias Target:

            *National/Ethnic Origin: 6

            *Sexual Orientation/Identity: 5

            *Race: 4

            *Gender: 2

            *Religion: 1

Reported Conduct Type:

            *Verbal Harassment: 11

            *Written Harassment: 2

            *Physical Harassment: 2

Reported Location:

            *Upper-Class Residence: 2

            *First Year Residence: 2

            *Undisclosed On-Grounds Residence: 1

            *Academic Building: 2

            *Public Space On-Grounds: 5

            *Public Space Off-Grounds: 3

 

Reports Submitted Anonymously: 4

Alleged Perpetrator(s) Unknown: 14

Alleged Perpetrator(s) Identified: 1

 


[1] The University’s definition of bias may not be the definition of bias used by federal or other agencies.

[2] Reports addressed using the University’s Title IX policy are not included in this summary, with the exception of reports indicating a bias-motivated or targeted action towards students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

[3] Multiple Just Report It reports received concerning the same incident are counted as a single report in this summary.

[4] Some reports are counted more than once in terms of conduct type or bias target, as certain reports are described as involving multiple forms of conduct and/or bias targets.

[5] In instances where an alleged perpetrator is unknown, the University’s ability to respond is limited. However, reporting these incidents remains important, as it informs the University’s efforts to prevent future bias incidents, such as public announcements, enhanced or targeted training, community forums (e.g., the Provost’s fall 2016 charrette), and increased police patrols in identified areas.

[6] In instances where an alleged perpetrator is identified and a policy violation is established, available sanctions may include educational, restorative, rehabilitative, and punitive components.  Students facing disciplinary referral to the University Judiciary Committee may be subject to a range of sanctions including admonition, restitution, no-contact directives, counseling and educational programs, community service, suspension and expulsion.  Non-disciplinary interventions and remedies include a host of actions such as increased monitoring, supervision, and/or security at locations or activities where the reported conduct occurred or is likely to reoccur; targeted or broad-based educational programming or training for relevant individuals or groups; academic and/or University housing modifications; workplace modifications for student employees; and other restorative measures.  Employees facing disciplinary referral may be subject to a range of sanctions including informal and formal counseling, transfer of position, removal of administrative appointment, demotion, suspension and termination of employment. 

[7] The University does not make disciplinary referrals or impose sanctions for insensitive actions.