Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College

About

Affirming Diversity

Diversity At Wheaton

"Being a part of Wheaton means making a commitment to understanding, appreciating and engaging difference… Affirming diversity means rejecting stereotypes and bigotry based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, religion, ability or lifestyle. It means each of us will respect the voice of other as we strive to find our own… We accept that multiciplicity exists within individual identity… Embracing diversity means accepting that diversity and inclusion are essential components of excellence that leads to personal growth, intellectual enrichment, freedom, and justice. from Diversity, Community at Wheaton

Mission

Fostering appreciation of diversity is one of Wheaton's core institutional values. This value is reflected in the Wheaton Honor Code, which states, "We commit ourselves to behave in a manner which demonstrates concern for the personal dignity, rights and freedoms of all members of the community..."

Despite Wheaton's commitment to fostering appreciation of diversity, some individuals may become targets of hateful or bias-motivated acts. Through communication, personal responsibility, and mutual respect we can create a safe, dignified, and open community at Wheaton.

The Affirming Diversity initiative presents Wheaton College’s position with regard to bias-motivated incidents, how the college responds to such incidents and outlines what targeted individuals or groups can expect in the way of support and college resources.

What is a Bias Incident?

A Bias Incident is generally understood to be any act—whether consisting of conduct, speech or expression—to which a bias is evident as a motivating factor. An act directed against a person, group or property expressing hostility or bias on the basis of gender, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation or disability is a bias incident. Examples of bias incidents may consist of slurs, epithets, name calling, use of degrading language, graffiti or slurs, intimidation, harassment or coercion directed at the targeted person or group.

What is the distinction between a Bias Incident, Hate Crime and Hate Speech?

A hate crime is a criminal offense expressing biases as defined by federal and state law. Law enforcement agencies generally define a hate crime as: "Any criminal offense committed against a person or property which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic/national origin groups or sexual-orientation group." Examples of criminal acts that may be categorized as hate crimes include vandalism, civil rights violations, threats to do harm, assault and battery and homicide.

Hate crimes are typically characterized by bias indicators where objective facts, circumstances or patterns attending a criminal act which, standing alone or in conjunction with other facts and circumstances, suggest that an offender's actions were motivated, in whole or in part, by a prohibited form of bias.

The distinction between hateful expression and hate speech and the interplay of certain First Amendment rights can be confusing. Hateful expression does not necessarily constitute an unlawful threat. Each situation is very fact specific and must be reviewed to determine if the threat is a provocative or boorish expression (typically protected by the First Amendment) or a true threat, which may be unlawful.

While all persons should be mindful of criminal laws, Wheaton holds its students and community to act to a higher standard than that which is subject to criminal enforcement under statutes. So, remember that, even though an incident may not meet the statutory definition of a hate crime, or does not constitute hate speech, it may still be a bias incident in violation of the Wheaton Honor Code and Community Standards and other applicable college policies.

Reporting an Incident

What can I do if I believe I'm the target of a bias incident?
  • Report all bias incidents immediately to the Wheaton Public Safety Department by calling x8213 (or x3333 in an emergency) and/or to the Norton police.
  • Preserve any evidence (graffiti, phone call recording, e-mail message, letter, etc.).
  • If you need help or support to report a bias incident, talk with your Resident Advisor or Area Coordinator, who can help you find the available college resources.
  • Even though many bias incidents are committed anonymously, you should not ignore such incidents. If you are unsure what to do, contact the Public Safety Department or the Office of the Dean of Students.
How will Wheaton College respond if I report a bias incident?

The college is committed to:

  • Meet with you promptly.
  • Treat you and your concern with respect and sensitivity.
  • Take every case seriously.
  • Notify the Incident Response Team.
  • Discuss your options including both informal and formal campus options and those which may involve the Norton Police.
  • Gather and preserve evidence.
  • Investigate all reports and cooperate with the Norton Police Department as appropriate, especially if a hate crime is at issue.
Incident Response Team

An Incident Response Team is convened when a reported bias incident requires a coordinated institutional response. Appointed team members include representatives from the following areas of the college:

  • Office of the President - President or his/her designee
  • Office of the Provost - Provost or her/his designee
  • Office of the Dean of Students - Dean or Senior Associate Dean
  • Office of Residential Life - Associate Dean or her/his designee
  • Office of Student Activities, Involvement & Leadership (SAIL) –Director or her/his designee
  • Public Safety Department- Director or his/her designee
  • Intercultural Board - 2 members selected by ICB from among IC member groups
  • Student Government Association - 2 members selected by SGA Executive Board
  • Marshall Center for Intercultural Learning - Associate Dean or her/his designee
  • Office of Communications -- Director or his/her designee
  • Counseling Center - College Psychologist or her/his designee

The role of the Incident Response Team is to:

  • Understand the facts and the nature of reported incident
  • Ensure that personal support is available to the targeted individual(s) and/or group(s)
  • Monitor the college's on-going investigation of the incident
  • Assess the potential impact of the incident on the Wheaton community
  • Coordinate communications with regard to the incident
  • Determine and shape the college's overall response.

Finding Support/Assistance

What forms of support/assistance are available for individuals who are targets or witnesses of a bias incident?

Wheaton's goal is to make certain that individuals who are targeted (and others in potentially targeted groups) are aware of the wide range of support available.

  • Public Safety, Human Resources and the Office of the Dean of Students
    Bias Incidents may violate a number of Wheaton's student policies and/or employee policies, such as policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination and Wheaton's Honor Code and Community Standards. Any student, faculty or staff member who believes he or she is the target of or witness to a Bias Incident is to report the behavior directly to the Public Safety Department, the Human Resources Office or the Office of the Dean of Students. Incidents involving conduct which may violate various Wheaton's Honor Code, Community Standards, or college policies prohibiting harassment or discrimination, or other specific policies, may be investigated and acted upon in accordance with such policies. If more than one college policy addresses the same conduct, the college will determine which investigation procedures and sanctions best address the situation.
  • The Office of Residential Life
    The Residential Life staff takes bias incidents seriously and is available to provide support for targeted individuals. Hall or floor meetings may be convened to discuss a bias incident and to urge residents to stand as a community against the affront. Participants in such meetings may include representatives from various departments, such as Public Safety and/or Student Affairs staff. Residential Life staff members may work with Public Safety and the Student Affairs staff to identify offenders and to pursue appropriate disciplinary action.
  • The Office of the Dean of Students and the Student Affairs Staff
    Individuals who become targets of a bias incident may need assistance to work through the impact of these incidents. Individuals impacted by such acts are not always limited to the individuals who have personally undergone them and may include others in the targeted group. All individuals who seek assistance in regard to the impact of a bias incident are encouraged to contact the Office of the Dean of Students, the Office of Residential Life, the Office of Student Activities, Leadership & Activism (SAIL), the Marshall Center for Intercultural Learning, the Counseling Center or the Public Safety Department. Student Affairs staff members are aware of and sensitive to the impact of a Bias Incident. They can offer caring support, help in working through difficult issues and will make referrals as needed.
How is the Wheaton community informed when a bias incident occurs?

The college has a protocol for informing the community of a bias incident that may pose a threat to personal safety of the members of its community. A bias incident involving an unidentified offender who may pose a potential threat to the safety of the community may result in the issuance of a Campus Safety Alert, which is circulated through the community.

If the bias incident does not pose an ongoing safety threat to the community or to a particular person or group, a Campus Security Bulletin may still be issued. Decisions related to implementing the protocol are made by the Dean of Students or his/her designee in consultation with the Incident Response Team.

Taking action

What options for resolution are available to individuals who are targets of a bias incident?

In responding to a bias incident, Wheaton seeks to provide redress for the alleged targeted individual, to provide a fair process for the alleged offender, to protect the campus community from the threat of such incident and to address the nature of the incident and its impact on individuals and groups within the Wheaton community and the community at large.

When a currently enrolled student is impacted by a bias incident and the offender is a Wheaton student, the following avenues of resolution may apply. (Informal actions do not preclude taking a formal action, but they may have an impact on the outcome of formal proceedings.)

Informal Actions

  • Seek Personal Support. Members of the Student Affairs and Residential Life staffs, the Counseling Center and the Public Safety Department staff can provide the targeted individual or group with information, personal support and available college resources.
  • Seek advice from a member of the Student Affairs, Residential Life, Student Involvement, Leadership & Involvement (SAIL), or Public Safety staffs. A member of the staff will review informal and formal options with the targeted person, who will always be kept informed of any action to be taken.
  • Confront the offender. The Student Affairs and Residential Life staffs can assist a targeted individual in confronting the person she/he is accusing if this is an option that he/she wants to consider. Such meetings are only appropriate if both parties agree and will occur in the presence of a member of the Student Affairs or Residential Life staffs.

If the targeted individual is a Wheaton student, and the offender is not a Wheaton student, counseling and support services are available from the Dean of Students Office, the Residential Life staff, the Student Involvement, Leadership & Involvement (SAIL) staff, the Wheaton Counseling Center, the Marshall Center for Intercultural Learning staff and the Public Safety Department, who will assist a targeted individual in understanding his/her options in regard to pursuing criminal action if applicable, or find programmatic ways to engage the community in a response.

Formal Actions

  • Disciplinary action by the Office of Residential Life. Some cases of bias incidents are most appropriately referred to the Office of Residential Life for review, resolution and possible disciplinary action. Sanctions that may be imposed by the Office of Residential Life may include educational sanctions, and/or notation in a student's conduct file.
  • Disciplinary action by the College Hearing Board and/or the Office of the Dean of Students. Some cases of bias incidents may be referred to the College Hearing Board or the Office of the Dean of Students for disciplinary action in accordance with the college conduct procedures. Sanctions that may be imposed by the College Hearing Board or the Office of the Dean of Students for an individual found responsible for a bias incident include educational sanctions, notation in a student's conduct file, probation and/or a recommendation to the President for suspension or expulsion. Sanctions of probation or suspension may be accompanied by conditions to be met before a student can return to good social standing or return to the college from suspension.

The College Hearing Board and Judicial Procedures can be found online.

Community Response
Other forms of response to a bias incident by the Wheaton community include community awareness initiatives such as campus speak outs, postering and community canvassing, candlelight vigils, letter writing campaigns, campus speakers and bias awareness programming.

What can I do to make a difference?

Each member of the Wheaton community has an obligation to uphold the Honor Code and Community Standards and adhere to applicable policies and is asked to commit her/himself to creating an environment that is comfortable for all of its members. Combating demeaning, harassing or nuisance jokes, phone calls or e-mail messages should be a priority for everyone.

Educate yourself. Ask yourself if you use derogatory, degrading or offensive terms in describing others and/or if you avoid people who are different from you. Seek to broaden your own viewpoint and find value from learning about those differences.

Speak out if a bias incident occurs. Follow the procedures set out in this Statement. Do your part to help make Wheaton a community where diversity is embraced.

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