“Freedom of thought and expression is essential to any institution of higher learning. Universities and colleges exist not only to transmit knowledge. Equally, they interpret, explore, and expand that knowledge testing the old and proposing the new. This mission guides learning outside the classroom quite as much as in class, and often inspires vigorous debate on those social, economic, and political issues that may arouse the strongest passions. In the process, views will be expressed that may seem to many wrong, distasteful or offensive. Such is the nature of the freedom to sift and winnow ideas.” (On Freedom of Expression and Campus Speech Codes, statement approved by the AAAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure in 1992 and adopted by the Council in November 1994).

The University of Mary Washington vigorously supports freedom of inquiry and expres­sion within the academic community. All members of this community have a fundamental right to follow their interests and to express their views privately and publicly without censorship, constrained only by the laws of the Common­wealth of Virginia, the laws of the United States, and respect for the property and person of others.

While these freedoms protect controversial ideas, differing views, and sometimes offensive and hurtful words, they do not protect individual or group conduct that constitutes a bias offense.

The University considers bias offense conduct to be unacceptable and antithetical to its commitments to diversity, inclusiveness, and the right of every individual to be treated with dignity and respect. To ensure an environment that fosters civility and mutual respect for members of the University community, bias offenses are prohibited.


A bias offense is any act that is based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, disability, national origin, political affiliation, marital status, sexual orientation, gender, veteran status, or age that creates an intimidating and/or hostile educational , living, or working environment by unreasonably and substantially interfering with an individual’s or group’s safety, security, work, or academic performance. Acts include language and/or behaviors.  Bias offenses may result in serious sanctions or disciplinary action.

An intimidating and/or hostile environment is one that reasonably results from severe or pervasive bias related conduct.

Whether an act of bias constitutes a bias offense will be determined within existing University investigative, administrative, and student conduct processes.  Complaints regarding the behavior of University employees may be initiated with Sabrina Johnson, Vice President for Equity and Access and Chief Diversity Office. Complaints regarding student behavior may be initiated with the University Student Conduct System.

What should be done if a bias offense occurs?

Students, faculty, and staff who believe that they are targets of or witnesses to bias offenses on University campuses and at University sponsored or supervised events are encouraged to  take the following actions.  Student Handbook provisions regarding alleged violations of University policy or other misconduct which occur off campus will apply.

  • Report the alleged offense as soon as possible to the University Police on the Fredericksburg campus. On the Stafford campus, report the incident to the police officer or security personnel on duty.
  • If possible, any physical evidence related to the offense should not be touched or disturbed. University police personnel will document what happened, including where and when the incident occurred.
  • University police personnel will conduct independent investigations for violations of criminal law.  After the police have collected evidence, the appropriate University personnel will remove such remnants as graffiti and/or they will repair any damage to University property.
  • Complete the University’s Bias Incident Report Form for additional follow-up.


The bias incident reporting program is established to assist the University in promoting an environment that fosters civility and mutual respect for all. Members of the University community are strongly encouraged to report all bias incidents.  A person does not have to be a member of a protected class or group in order to be a victim of a bias incident.

What is meant by bias incident?

Bias incidents involve any behavior that a person finds harmful or hurtful and reasonably believes is directed at him or her or others simply because of  one’s race, color, religion, disability, national origin, political affiliation, marital status, sexual orientation, gender, veteran status, or age.

What is the difference between a bias incident and a bias offense under this policy?

Bias incident is the broadest category of bias related behavior that includes bias offenses, as defined earlier in this policy, hate crimes, and lesser incidents that are motivated by bias (see definition of hate crime below). A bias incident may involve protected speech.

This definition is used for reporting and statistical purposes only. It carries no independent sanctioning weight or authority.

How does one make a Bias Incident Report?

The University of Mary Washington urges all members of the University to promptly report all bias incidents using the BIAS INCIDENT REPORT FORM.

The University of Mary Washington urges all members of the University to promptly report all incidents about UMW students using the Incident Report Form.  Reports about faculty/staff should be directed to Human Resources.

Only UMW students, faculty and staff may submit Bias Incident Report Forms.

Each report requires the user to log on with a valid UMW user ID and password.

You may also download and/or print a PDF file of the Bias Incident Report Form. Please complete and submit the form to Sabrina Johnson, Vice President for Equity and Access and Chief Diversity Officer, located in George Washington Hall, Room 113.

Knowingly falsifying a report is a violation of this policy and the Honor Code and may result in disciplinary action under University policy.

What happens to the report?

Sabrina Johnson, Vice President for Equity and Access and Chief Diversity Officer, will receive all reports.  All bias incident reports will be reviewed promptly by a designated staff member. Reports concerning student behavior will be followed up by personnel in Student Affairs on the appropriate campus.  Reports of employee conduct will be followed up by the Sabrina Johnson, Vice President for Equity and Access and Chief Diversity Officer. For all reports containing contact information, a designated staff member will contact the reporting person and will be available to meet with them to explore a plan for resolution and to provide information about related University policies, procedures, and services.

Other University offices may be consulted as needed to ensure a proper response.

Incident reports and related follow up will be treated as confidentially as possible.  Information will be shared only as needed.  Bias incident data will be used to develop community educational and outreach programs.

What is a hate crime?

Hate crimes are specifically defined in various federal and state statutes. These statutes vary in terms of the acts and categories of bias that are covered.  The FBI investigates acts that fall within federal hate crime legislation.  Categories of bias under federal law are race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, and disability.  State and local law enforcement authorities investigate violations of Virginia law.  The University’s definition of bias incident is broader than state and federal laws governing hate crimes. For information on federal hate crime legislation and the FBI’s enforcement of it, see the FBI’s website.

There are three Virginia statutes that specifically address hate crimes:

  • Statute on Assault and Battery:  Enhances the criminal penalties for acts of assault and battery when such acts are based on a person’s race, religious conviction, color or national origin.
  • Statute on Hate Crimes Reporting Act: Requires state, county and municipal law-enforcement agencies to report to the Department of State Police all hate crimes occurring in their jurisdictions.
  • Statute on Civil Action for Racial or Ethnic Harassment, Violence or Vandalism: Permits any victim of an act of intimidation, harassment, violence or vandalism motivated by racial, religious or ethnic animosity to sue for civil damages in Virginia state courts.

All hate crimes are bias incidents, but not all bias incidents are hate crimes.


Approved by the University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors at the meeting on April 18, 2008.