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Bias Education & Response Team

Report a Bias Incident Using Our Online Form.


Who We Are

The Bias Education & Response Team (BERT) is a group of Lesley University faculty and staff that is committed to addressing the impact of bias incidents through a restorative approach that focuses on strengthening relationships and building community. The team engages the Lesley community in conversations about restorative justice, institutional policies and protocols, concepts, and resources related to bias.

Why We're Here

At Lesley, we aspire to be a community where people of all identities feel welcome, heard, and supported. However, we recognize there may be moments where some do not feel welcome due to incidents they've encountered that are related to their identity or identities, such as words, comments, or actions motivated by bias.

In response, the university has established both a way for Lesley community members to report incidents of bias they've experienced and a systematic approach for responding to the harm these incidents have on our students and employees. The Bias Education & Response Team is central to this important work.

What We Do

The Bias Education & Response Team responds to reported incidents of bias that have impacted members of the Lesley community. This process is not an investigation, but rather a conversation with the individuals involved. We want to understand the issue at the core of the incident, provide support, and explore pathways for growth and understanding. We also work to increase awareness of critical issues, facilitate education and growth, create community, and help to build and restore relationships.

Our Work Includes:

  • Responding to harm caused by bias in a way that rebuilds trust and relationships.
  • Strengthening our understanding of the campus climate so we can build a community where all people are affirmed, supported, and respected.
  • Creating a way for Lesley community members to report incidents of bias.
  • Contributing to a process for responding to reported incidents of bias in a timely, consistent, and effective way.
  • Tracking reported bias incidents, patterns, and trends to gain an understanding of what is happening in the Lesley community.
  • Creating learning opportunities on matters related to bias.
  • Providing insight to inform our institutional practices, bias education work, and development activities for BERT members.

Our work in BERT does not replace or change Lesley University's existing policies and protocols on discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct, or any violations of criminal law.

University Policies

All students and employees have the right to participate fully and equally in Lesley University’s academic programs, social and extracurricular programs and activities, and employment that is free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

These policies reflect our commitment to supporting the dignity and respect of every individual.

Meet the Members of BERT
The Bias Education & Response Team (BERT) is made up of Lesley University faculty, staff, and administrators.

BERT Coordinators oversee the strategy and implementation of the bias education and response program, as well as train the BERT Responders. If you are interested in getting involved in BERT, or you are looking for additional resources, please contact any of the BERT Coordinators.

BERT Responders meet with individuals who are directly involved in a reported bias incident. Responders will use a restorative justice pre-conference process when meeting with individuals in preparation for a restorative justice circle or conference.
Lesley University is committed to supporting the dignity and respect of every individual on our campus. We expect members of the community to respect each other by embracing our core values of inquiry, diversity, community, and citizenship.

Definitions

The following definitions help us to build a common language and understanding around these important issues.

  • Restorative Justice

    Restorative Justice is an approach that embraces the strengthening of community, reparation of harm, reconciliation of interpersonal conflict, and the welcoming of people into a community.

    Restorative Justice differs from traditional disciplinary approaches for addressing conflict. In addition to providing accountability, it empowers us to rebuild relationships following harmful incidents.

    With restorative justice conferences, community members are able to understand the experiences of others and the harm caused. They can then begin to take the steps needed to make things right.

  • Bias

    Bias is a preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a group of persons based upon the group’s characteristics or a perception that the person or group has one or more characteristics, including but not limited to their race, gender, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, age, veteran or military status, membership in Uniformed Services, or disability.  Bias may lead to discrimination, harassment, hate crimes, or other forms of misconduct subject to disciplinary action.

    A bias incident at Lesley means an action committed against a person or group that is motivated in whole or in part by bias.

  • Discrimination

    Discrimination under the University’s policy means treating individuals or groups less favorably in the terms or conditions of their employment or education on the basis of their membership in one or more of the following categories: race, ethnicity, color, religion, gender, national origin or ancestry, age, physical or mental disability, pregnancy or parental status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, veteran or military status, membership in Uniformed Services, and all other categories protected by applicable state and federal laws (together, “protected categories”).

    For more information about discrimination, please review the University’s Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Violence Policy.

  • Harassment

    Harassment under the University’s policy is verbal, physical, or other conduct such as threats, physical force, slurs, bullying, cyberbullying, stalking, discriminatory treatment, or other conduct related to an individual's membership in one or more of the protected categories that have the purpose or effect of:

    • Causing a reasonable person to feel humiliated or intimidated;
    • Unreasonably impeding or interfering with academic status, academic performance, education, work status, or work performance;
    • Unreasonably creating an intimidating, offensive, or hostile environment in the residential hall, learning environments such as the classroom, work environment, or cyber environment;
    • Interfering substantially with an individual's participation in the University community;
    • Causing a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.

    For more information about harassment, please review the University’s Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Violence Policy.

  • Hate Crime

    Under federal law, a hate crime is a criminal offense committed against a person or property that is motivated, in whole or in part, by bias. Under Massachusetts law, a hate crime is a crime against person or property with the intent to intimidate such person because of such person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability.

    All hate crimes are bias incidents but not all bias incidents are hate crimes.  Examples of bias incidents that fall short of hate crimes:

    • Comments that express harmful stereotypes about the protected categories, e.g., racial jokes.
    • Graffiti on a dorm room whiteboard that expresses bias against the protected categories, e.g., sexist or racist language or images. (If the act of graffiti is criminal vandalism or property damage, it may constitute a hate crime.)
    • T-shirts promoting a campus party with language and imagery that objectify women.
  • Sexual Harassment

    Sexual harassment is a type of harassment and a form of discrimination based on gender, defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and all other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

    • Submission to or rejection of such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual's academic advancement, employment, or participation in Lesley's programs or activities;
    • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for academic or employment decisions affecting such individual, or decisions affecting such individual's participation in Lesley's programs or activities; or
    • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile environment – that is, unreasonably interfering with an individual's work, academic performance, education, or participation in Lesley's programs or activities.

    For more information about sexual harassment, please see the University’s Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Violence Policy.

Bias Incident Reporting and Follow-Up

Reporting

Students may report suspected bias incidents and employees must report suspected bias incidents.

Even if you were a witness to an event that can be described as a bias incident, act of discrimination, or hate crime as a third party who wasn't directly involved, you can make a report to the Bias Education & Response Team.

Report an incident in one of these ways:

  • File a complaint through our online form. You can submit the report with your name or anonymously.
  • Email reports@lesley.edu to reach all of the BERT Coordinators.
  • Email or call any of the BERT Coordinators individually.
  • Mail a letter to Lesley University, 29 Everett Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.

For any related inquiries you can also contact:

If You Are Unsure That an Incident Is a Bias Incident

You may consult with any member of the Bias Education & Response Team on whether an incident was biased or not. This conversation can provide education on related issues and can help individuals understand how we define a bias incident.


Follow-Up: What Happens When a Bias Incident is Reported

 

The Chief Diversity Officer, Equal Opportunity & Title IX Coordinator, Dean of Students, and Director of Human Resources:

  1. Discuss the report no later than 36 hours after receiving it.
  2. Determine whether the report is a possible bias incident, or an incident of discrimination, harassment, sexual violence, or hate crime.
  3. Refer the matter to the corresponding Lesley official for follow up, per the procedures outlined in our Flowchart of Our BERT Process [PDF].

Depending on the nature of the incident, the report will be assigned to the appropriate official. For example, the Bias Education & Response Team will respond to reports of bias incidents. The Equal Opportunity & Title IX Coordinator, Human Resources Director, or the Dean of Students will respond to reports of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. Reports of crimes and of ongoing threats to safety will be forwarded to Public Safety.

Investigations of alleged discrimination, harassment, sexual violence, and hate crimes will follow the Community Standards of Conduct, Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Violence Policy, and Discrimination and Harassment Complaint Resolution Procedures, as appropriate.


The BERT Process and Outcomes

If your case is assigned to the Bias Education & Response Team, here's the process the team will engage in:

  1. Acknowledge the incident, if not anonymous.
  2. Assess the incident.
  3. Communicate with the reporting party, if not anonymous.
  4. Meet with the involved individuals.
  5. Determine and facilitate the next steps, such as referrals, education, or notifications.
  6. Send a closing communication to the involved parties that summarizes the actions that were taken, and offers opportunities for future conversation and support.

Confidentiality

The conversations between a BERT Responder and Lesley community members are confidential. BERT Responders have received training on how to implement a restorative justice process. They are skilled in engaging individuals in difficult dialogue, offering support, building awareness, and educating individuals about bias.

Exception: As mandated reporters, and for liability purposes, before engaging in conversation, our Responders will disclose that if an individual admits to having committed a crime or having engaged in behaviors that reflect discrimination, harassment, assault, or sexual assault, the Responder must share that information with the university.

Timeframe

The time it takes to complete the BERT cycle—from when an incident is first shared with BERT, through the closing of the case—will depend on the availability of the involved individual(s) to meet. On average, it takes 7–16 days to complete this cycle.

Actions BERT Responders May Take in the Process

  • Facilitate a restorative justice circle or conference where the individuals involved explore the issue, the harm caused, and the actions needed to restore relationships, a sense of community, and trust.
  • Develop and deliver educational programs to reduce opportunities for bias incidents to occur.
  • Provide resources and support to those affected by bias incidents.
  • Provide a deeper understanding of issues and resources for personal growth to individuals who make comments or exhibit behaviors motivated by bias.
  • Make referrals to campus offices and resources as needed.
  • Refer the matter to the Chief Diversity Officer, Title IX Coordinator, Dean of Students, and Director of Human Resources if the Bias Education & Response Team member believes that the incident reflects possible discrimination, harassment, sexual violence, or a hate crime.