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Bias Reporting FAQ

The College of New Jersey is committed to maintaining a campus environment that is free from unlawful discrimination and harassment. Doing so requires your help. If you experience or witness a bias incident, please file a report via our online form.  Filing a report allows the College to promptly respond to incidents, assess issues with campus climate, and recommend appropriate educational initiatives in response.

TCNJ remains deeply committed to addressing bias on campus.  The College recognizes that each incident is unique and must be addressed based on the facts and context presented in the specific complaint.  All incidents are closely reviewed individually to determine the appropriate response to the report.

What is an example of a “bias incident?”

A bias incident targets a person based upon any of the protected categories identified in The College of New Jersey Policy Prohibiting Discrimination in the Workplace/Educational Environment.  There are 20+ categories in this policy. Examples of some of the categories are race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, gender identify, sexual orientation, marital status, or veteran status.  A bias incident occurs where someone believes that they are subject to discrimination, harassment, abuse, bullying, stereotyping, marginalization, or any other form of mistreatment because they identify or are associated with a particular group.

Examples of a bias incident are the following:

  • A staff member tells a racist joke.
  • A faculty member makes a sexist comment.
  • A job candidate is not hired because of their age.
  • A student is mocked for having a disability.
  • A student is marginalized for being transgender.
  • A wall is defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti.
  • An international student is verbally harassed because of where she is born.
  • A gay student discovers anti-gay messages on his dorm room door.

How do I file a bias report?

Bias incident reports should be submitted through this online form.

Why should I report a bias incident?

Completing the online form will enable you to describe an incident of bias and provide the College with a very important tool to help reach our goal of being an inclusive and respectful community.

When you report incidents of bias, you help the College take a major step forward in becoming the community we aspire to be. No one should be mistreated because of (for example) their race, age, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, ethnic or national origin, disability or veteran status.  If is our shared responsibility to stop discrimination and bias when we see it. We can work together to build a safer, healthier, stronger, more respectful and inclusive TCNJ community.

What is a hate crime?

New Jersey’s criminal law includes a specific crime called “bias intimidation,” which is considered New Jersey’s hate crime law. Under the bias intimidation statute, it is a crime to intimidate or to act in a way that a person knows will intimidate an individual or group because of their inclusion in a protected category while committing another crime.  In short, a hate crime is the commission of a crime that is motivated by bias.

All crimes are matters for law enforcement. Those crimes committed on campus and should be reported to Campus Police Services (x2345).  Crimes committed off campus are reported to the law enforcement in the jurisdiction in which they occur.

For further detail, please see Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Heather Hadley’s 2020 presentation to the campus community on this topic.

What distinguishes a “bias incident” from a “bias/hate crime”?

Both bias incidents and bias/hate crimes cause substantial harm to our community and are antithetical to an inclusive culture. However, there are important legal distinctions between the two. Chief among these is the commission of an otherwise criminal act.

As the name suggests, a bias/hate “crime” occurs when someone commits a crime (e.g., assault, robbery, murder) that is motivated by hatred or bias against a protected category. For instance, if someone is assaulted because they are (or are believed to be) from another country, they are the victim of both bias/hate and a crime – hence, a bias/hate crime. Bias/hate crimes are under the exclusive purview of Campus Police Services, in coordination with the NJ Bias Crime Unit.

In contrast, a bias incident is any act – be it verbal or written, in-person or online, physical or emotional – that threatens or harms a person or group on the basis of a protected category, interferes with one’s educational opportunities, and/or disrupts one’s living, learning, or working environment. For example, if a Hispanic student returns to their room to find that someone has posted disparaging phrases about Hispanic culture to their door, they are the victim of a bias incident.

For further detail, please see Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Heather Hadley’s 2020 presentation to the campus community on this topic.

When are bias reports reviewed?

All reports will be reviewed within two business days of submission.  If the reporter is known, they will be contacted within three business days of submission.  If the reporter is unknown, the Associate Vice President (AVP) of Institutional Equity and Compliance (IEC) will act accordingly.  Either Campus Police Services (CPS), the Office of Student Conduct (OSC), or the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (IEC) will contact the reporter to share resources or discuss the next steps.

What if the incident is an emergency?

If you are on campus and concerned about the immediate health and safety of yourself or someone else, please call TCNJ Campus Police Services at x2345 or 911 if you are off campus.

Who reviews the report?

Reports are received by the AVP for Institutional Equity and Compliance (IEC) and shared with college officials charged with addressing conduct on campus. This initial group is called the Bias Caseload Team (BCT).

In all instances, TCNJ Campus Police Services (CPS) is involved in the initial review of the report to determine if Campus Police should lead the investigation.  If Campus Police investigates, the results of the investigation will be shared with the appropriate office (Office of Student Conduct, Title IX, Human Resources and/or IEC) for appropriate next steps.  In many instances, CPS and the Office of Student Conduct will co-investigate the matter.

What happens if Campus Police Services does not investigate?

For complaints filed by a student against another student, the Office of Student Conduct or the Office of Title IX will be responsible for outreach and investigation.

For complaints by students against faculty/staff, or by faculty/staff against other faculty/staff, IEC will be responsible for the outreach and investigation.

What are the possible responses after filing a bias report?

Responses to bias incidents may include:

  • A notice to the campus community about the incident to create awareness
  • Educational conversations, workshops, seminars, and professional development
  • Removal of graffiti or flyers
  • Mediated and facilitated dialogue sessions
  • Support and assistance to the affected individual and/or communities
  • Resolution agreements
  • Referral to the Office of Human Resources for appropriate disciplinary action
  • Referrals to appropriate resources (e.g. Mental Health Services, EAP, union, etc.)
  • Referrals to other offices or departments as appropriate

What does BEST stand for?

BEST stands for Bias Education and Support Team.

What is the purpose of BEST?

BEST is not responsible for investigating or adjudicating acts of bias or hate crimes. The overall purpose of BEST is to facilitate the College’s efforts to create an inclusive environment by tracking bias incidents, identifying and aggregating data, planning campus educational responses and providing resources to individuals who are affected by bias incidents that take place on our college campus.

Who are the members of BEST?

The current membership of BEST is maintained on this page.

Does BEST impact freedom of speech or academic freedom in the classroom?

TCNJ policies protect an individual’s right to free speech and open expression.  However, free speech does not justify discrimination, harassment, or speech that targets specific people and may be biased or hateful.

What type of support will the Division of Inclusive Excellence (DIE) provide if I am a party to a conduct hearing involving a bias incident?

The Student Code of Conduct (SCC) allows DEI to serve as an advisor to a student (upon the student’s request) who is participating in the conduct process.  The SCC defines an advisor as follows:

“Advisor” is a person chosen by either the Respondent or Reporter to accompany and/or assist that individual with any investigation preparations, conference meetings, hearing proceedings, and/or appeals. The Advisor may not participate directly in any proceedings or represent any person involved.

A student can choose who they want to serve (with the exception of CPS) as their advisor during a conduct proceeding.  If the student asks for a representative from DEI to serve as an advisor, DEI will offer the following support:

  • The representative from DEI will meet with the student and agree upon a regular meeting schedule. At each meeting, the student will be offered resources to insure their success academically and emotionally.
  • DEI will assist/support the student in the organization, preparation, and presentation of their testimony at the conduct hearing.
  • DEI will assist the student with investigation preparations, conference meetings, hearing proceedings, and/or appeals.
  • Immediately following the hearing, DEI will debrief with the student to determine appropriate next steps.
  • Once the hearing officer issues a report, DEI will meet with the student to determine appropriate next steps.
  • After the student has either completed the hearing process, or exhausted the appeal process, DEI will meet with the student to offer additional resources and support, if necessary.

Bias incidents should be reported as soon as possible.  This allows for a timely response on behalf of the College so that the matter can be promptly addressed and the affected parties can be directed to appropriate resources.  Reporting and documenting bias acts can help TCNJ better understand the reality of the campus climate related to discrimination.  The College encourages individuals to report bias acts so that it can provide support and achieve an appropriate resolution.