Bias Education & Response Team

Report a bias incident here.

Bias Education & Response Team

The Bias Education & Response Team (BERT) is a group of faculty and staff on campus that seek to engage community members in educational and developmental conversations through a restorative justice approach as a part of addressing the impact and harms resulting from bias. Through our work, BERT will also educate the campus community about restorative justice, which is central to our work, as well as key institutional policies, protocols, concepts and resources related to bias.

While we aspire to a community where people of all identities feel welcome and supported, we understand and recognize that there may exist moments where some do not feel this way as a result of experiences they have had related to their identity(ies). In response, Lesley University has committed to establishing a systematic approach for responding to the harm and impact bias incidents can have on the well-being and success of students, staff, and faculty, and other employees.

BERT helps to coordinate a system for addressing the impact of bias, how it is communicated to the university, how it is tracked, as well as training for our team members to effectively follow up with community members. It is important to note that the work of BERT does not replace or alter any of the existing protocols currently in place to resolve alleged violations of Lesley University policies regarding discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct, or any violations of criminal law. In actuality, the purpose of the BERT is about awareness, growth, education, community and restoration of relationships – and to increase awareness on critical issues and create opportunities for learning and dialogue on such issues. 

If a university policy is violated, steps will be taken in accordance with those policies. As it stands, BERT functions as an entity to respond to communicated incidents of bias impacting Lesley community members and this is done via timely, consistent, and effective support to all parties that have been directly or indirectly impacted.

Purpose

Within BERT, we find Restorative Justice to be critical to our ongoing efforts to establish a community where individuals of all identities feel heard, supported and can participate equally and fully in the academic, extracurricular and social experiences offered by the university. At Lesley University, the work of BERT will fulfill the following:

  • Create opportunities when responding to harm in a manner that considers pathways and needs for rebuilding trust and relationships
  • Strengthen our understanding of the current campus climate, which is foundational to the work of building a community where all people are affirmed, supported and respected.
  • Add to a systematic process for providing education on bias and responding to bias- in a manner that is timely, consistent and effective when bias is reported.
  • Create easier access for reporting for all community members.
  • Establish an ability to track and develop a better understanding of bias incidents (i.e. what is happening; how often; patterns; trends)
  • Create opportunities for organizational learning for the university on matters related to bias
  • Provide insight and information that will inform our institutional practices, bias education work and development activities for BERT members.

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. 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 in a manner that is free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

Our policies reflect this commitment:

If you are here to report a bias incident, please proceed directly to the reporting form.

Lesley University BERT Team

A group of faculty and staff committed to addressing bias incidents through a restorative practice. 

  • BERT Training Coordinators
    • Amarildo “Lilu” Barbosa, Chief Diversity Officer 
    • Maritsa Barros, Director of Urban Scholars Initiative
    • Amanda Wager, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education
    • Erik Gullard, Senior Assistant Director, Undergraduate Admissions
    • Meenakshi Chhabra, Director of Global Interdisciplinary Studies, Graduate School of Arts & Social Sciences
  • BERT Policy Investigation (for non-BERT follow up)
    • Michelle Polowchak, Associate Vice President for Human Resources
    • Nathaniel Mays, Dean of Students 
    • Anita Poole-Endsley, Equal Opportunity & Title IX Coordinator
  • BERT Responders
    • Patricia Crain de Galarce, Associate Dean of Graduate School of Education
    • Alexander Cuff, Professional Academic Advisor, Lesley Art + Design
    • Bwann Gwann, Student Success Coach, Urban Scholars Initiative 
    • Susan Titus-Garnier, Classification & Compensation/504 Coordinator in Human Resources
    • Kristina Lamour-Sansone, Professor, Lesley Art + Design
    • Diep Luu, Director of Academic Advising, College of Liberal arts & Sciences
    • Angela Mittiga, Assistant Director of Advising & Mentoring, Lesley Art + Design
    • Valeria Shinas, Associate Dean Graduate School of Education
    • Julie Stanwood, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, Lesley Art + Design
    • Deborah Spragg, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Arts & Social Sciences
    • Greg Saint-Dick, Student Success Coach, Urban Scholars Initiative
    • Nicole Weber, Program Director, Graduate School of Education
    • Megan Crowe-Rothstein, Field Director, College of liberal Arts & Sciences
    • Peiwei Li, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Arts & Social Sciences
    • Rakhshanda Saleem, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Arts & Social Sciences

How to Communicate an Incident of Bias 

Students may report suspected bias incidents and all employees must report suspected bias incidents in one of the following ways:

File a complaint through our website.

To learn more about BERT, Restorative Justice, or to make a report, contact the Bias Education & Response Team (BERT) at reports@lesley.edu

For any related inquiries you can also contact any of the people below:

Amarildo "Lilu" Barbosa
Chief Diversity Officer
29 Mellen Street, Cambridge
Email: abarbosa@lesley.edu

Ms. Michelle Polowchak
Associate Vice President, Human Resources
Michelle.Polowchak@lesley.edu 

Dr. Nathaniel G. Mays
Dean of Student Life and Academic Development 
11 Mellen Street, Cambridge
617.349.8539 (Office) 617.894.2765 (cell)
Email: nmays@lesley.edu
Email: dsa@lesley.edu 

Public Safety Office
34 Mellen Street, Cambridge
617.349.8888
Email: publicsafetysupervisors@live.lesley.edu

U.S. Postal Mailing Address for Lesley University:
29 Everett Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

What Happens When a Bias Incident is Reported

When a bias incident is communicated to us, the Chief Diversity Officer, Equal Opportunity & Title IX Coordinator, Dean of Students, and Director of Human Resources discuss the report no later than 36 hours after receipt of the report, absent extenuating circumstances.

They will determine whether the report reflects a possible bias incident, discrimination, harassment, sexual violence, or a hate crime. They will promptly refer the matter to the corresponding Lesley official for follow up. For example, the Bias Education & Response Team will respond to reports of bias incidents, and the Equal Opportunity & Title IX Coordinator will respond to reports of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and/or sexual assault. Reports of crimes and of ongoing threats to safety will be forwarded to Public Safety.

See a Flowchart of Our BERT Process [PDF]

Follow up on incidents of bias communicated to Bias Education & Response Team (BERT) will be done in a timely manner. As part of our process, the BERT will:

  • Acknowledge receipt of incident, if not anonymous
  • Assess the incident
  • Communicate with the reporting party, if not anonymous
  • Determine next steps for follow up (i.e. referrals, education, notifications)
  • Notify the Coordinator(s) of Bias Education & Response Team of action steps taken in response

Additionally, the Bias Education & Response Team members will also: 

  • Develop and deliver programs and educational opportunities for the Lesley community to minimize or reduce the opportunities for bias incidents to occur.
  • Provide resources and support to those affected by bias incidents.
  • 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 it reflects possible discrimination, harassment, sexual violence, or a hate crime.

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.

Definitions

 

 

  • Restorative Justice

    A philosophical approach that embraces the strengthening of community, reparation of harm, reconciliation of interpersonal conflict, and welcoming of people into a community.

  • 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 see 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, cyber bullying, stalking, discriminatory treatment, or other conduct related to an individual's membership in one or more of the protected categories that has 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; and/or
    • 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 see 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 above categories, e.g., racial jokes.
    • Graffiti on a dorm room white board that expresses bias against the above categories, e.g., sexist or racist language or images. (Note: 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why Use Restorative Justice?

    Restorative Justice differs from traditional punitive approaches for addressing conflict. In addition to providing a system for accountability, restorative justice also allows us to explore relationships and trust in the wake of incidents that cause harm in the community. By using restorative justice conferences and circles, community members are able to hear experiences of others, better understand the harm caused and can also begin to explore the steps needed to make things right. 

  • Who is a BERT Coordinator?

    The BERT Coordinators are faculty, staff and/or administrators who oversee the coordination, strategy and implementation of the bias education and response program as well as the BERT Responder training activities.

  • Who is a BERT Responder?

    A Responder is a BERT team member who responds to the impact of bias on campus following communication of a bias incident by meeting with individuals directly involved in the incident that was reported. Responders will use a restorative justice pre-conference process when meeting with individuals as a part of the preparation for a restorative justice circle or conference.

  • Is the BERT process a form of an investigation?

    No. The process coordinated by the Bias Education & Response Team is not an investigation. The focus of the conversations with the individual(s) involved in a reported incident is education and developmental, with the intent to understand the central issue, provide support and to explore pathways and resources for growth and understanding on the issue at the core of the incident.

  • How do I communicate a bias incident to BERT?

    A bias incident can be shared with BERT in a variety of ways. Our current system allows for individuals to make an online report, either with their name or anonymously. Additionally, individuals can contact any one of the Bert Coordinators via phone or email; or individuals can email all of the BERT Coordinators directly at reports@lesley.edu.

  • What if I am unsure that an incident was in fact a bias incident?

    If you are not sure whether or not an incident was in fact a bias incident, you have the option to consult with any member of the Bias Education & Response Team, including one of our Responders. This conversation can be an opportunity for education on related issues and can also help individuals understand how we are defining a bias incident within the context of our work.

  • Should I make a report if I am a third party that was not directly involved in the incident?

    Even if you do not directly experience an incident but you witness such an event that can be described as a bias incident, act of discrimination or hate crime, for example, you can still make a report to the university’s Bias Education & Response Team. Once we have the information, we will ensure that appropriate steps are taken.

  • Is this a confidential process?

    The conversations between a BERT Responder and community members are all kept confidential. The goal of our work is to provide support, education and resources for growth on related issues. Our Responders are not trained to conduct investigations, instead the training is focused on the implementation of a restorative justice based process. Training also includes a focus on one’s ability to engage in difficult dialogue, offering support, awareness building and education on bias that often manifests in words, comments or behaviors. NOTE: As mandated reporters, and for liability purposes, our Responders will also disclose prior to engaging in conversation that if an individual admits to having committed a crime and/or behaviors that reflect discrimination, harassment, assault or sexual assault, that information must be shared with the university.

  • What are the outcomes of the BERT process?

    The intended outcome of the BERT process is to engage in a restorative justice circle or conference, where are individuals involved in an incident have an opportunity to explore the issue and harm caused as well as the action steps needed to restore a sense of community, trust and relationships. This process also looks to provide support to individuals who have been harmed and impacted by acts of bias, and any necessary referrals when appropriate. Additionally, for those who make comments or exhibit behaviors motivated by bias that impact others, we intend to provide a process that leads to deeper knowledge and understanding on the central issue and greater awareness of resources and pathways for ongoing personal development and growth on these issues.

  • What happens after I make a report?

    Please review the Bias Incident Response Flowchart  (PDF) for an illustration of the pathways once a report is made. In general, once a report is made it is reviewed by a team of administrators, which includes the Chief Diversity Officer, the Director of Human Resources, Dean of Students, the Equal Opportunity & Title IX Coordinator and BERT Coordinators. Based on the nature of the report, it will be assigned to either BERT, the Equal Opportunity & Title IX Investigator, Dean of Students, or Director of Human Resources for follow up. As for the follow up, within 36 hours of receiving the report, if the identity is known, the person who made the report will be contacted communicating an opportunity to meet with one of our Responders and regarding the next steps that they can expect.

  • What happens after I meet with a responder?

    After the meeting, the Responder will send a closing communication summarizing steps taken and offering opportunities for future conversations and additional support. Individuals can reach out to the Responder at any point during the process for follow up conversation.

  • How long does the BERT process take to be completed?

    The amount of time it takes to complete the BERT cycle (from when an incident is shared with BERT, to follow up taken, and then to closing) varies and depends on the availability of the involved individual(s) in relation to meeting times. On average, it can take anywhere between one week to 16 days to complete this cycle depending on coordination of schedules.

  • Why do we have a Bias Education Response Team?

    We have a Bias Education & Response Team at Lesley University because we maintain a commitment to addressing bias and providing education on critical issues of identity that often manifest in words, comments or actions motivated by bias. We also know that while we strive to create a welcoming environment on campus, incidents of bias do occur and so it is important to have a system in place to provide support and education in response to such incidents.

  • How can I get involved with BERT?

    If you are interested in becoming involved in BERT, please contact one of the BERT Coordinators listed on the webpage.

  • How do I get access to more resources?

    If you are interested in accessing more resources related to bias, its impact and pathways for growth on key issues, please contact one of our BERT Coordinators listed on the webpage. We will also look to make resources available on our webpage.