Mission Statement

The Community Bias Response Team (CBRT) is an interdisciplinary, interdepartmental group of faculty, staff, and students who work to address the individual, group and institutional impacts of comments, behaviors, actions, or practices that are perceived as biased. CBRT coordinates a system through which members of the Middlebury community can report incidents of bias and offers a range of processes that can be used to address the harm caused by bias. CBRT supports impacted individuals and groups, provides education, and facilitates dialogue with the aim of repairing harm and preventing future incidents. It is not the purpose of CBRT to investigate, arbitrate, or to take the place of other Middlebury administrative processes; rather, the intention is to connect those who have witnessed or experienced an act of bias with appropriate support and resources. CBRT does not initiate disciplinary action or impose sanctions regarding bias incidents.

CBRT Members

  • Miguel Fernández, Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Renee Wells, Education for Equity and Inclusion
  • Jodi Litchfield, Disability Resource Center
  • Brian Lind, Community Standards 
  • Saifa Hussain, Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life
  • Christopher Star, Classics and Classical Studies
  • Noreen Pecsok, Civil Rights and Title IX
  • Lisa Burchard, Public Safety
  • Saif Panday ‘21, Student
  • Wengel Kifle ‘20, Student
  • Janae Due, Assistant Director Anderson Freeman Center

Apply to be a Student Member

CBRT is currently accepting applications for student members for the 2020-2021 academic year.  This is a volunteer role that involves a one-hour weekly commitment. Students should be available to serve during both the fall and spring semesters. (J-Term availability is optional but not required.)

Students with an interest in having critical conversations about campus climate and ways to improve it are encouraged to apply. Deadline for applications is Friday, March 6 at 5 pm. Click here to apply.

Definition of Bias Incident

Middlebury defines a bias incident as a single act or multiple acts directed toward an individual or group on the basis of actual or perceived race, creed, color, place of birth, ancestry, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, service in the armed forces of the United States, positive-HIV-related blood test results, disability, culture, socio-economic status, spirituality or any combination of these or other related factors, with the purpose or effect, from the point of view of a reasonable person, of negatively impacting another. Bias incidents include, but are not limited to: slurs, degrading language, epithets, graffiti, vandalism, intimidation, symbols, and harassment; that are directed toward or affect the targeted individual or team.  Incidents of bias may contribute to a hostile campus environment and can occur even if the act itself is unintentional or delivered as a joke, prank, or having humorous intent.

This definition is meant neither to proscribe nor to inhibit discussions in or out of the classroom of complex, controversial, or sensitive matters such as those listed above. 

Note: This definition of a bias incident is intentionally broad to reflect our values to create and sustain an inclusive, safe, and productive community for all of our members.

Related Terms

Protected class
a group of people who share common characteristics and are protected from discrimination and harassment under federal and state laws and/or campus policies. Common characteristics for which individuals and groups experience bias incidents include age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, religion, disability status, national origin/nationality, citizenship status, language, veteran status, socioeconomic status, pregnancy status, body size, or political affiliation.
Microaggressions
comments or behaviors that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, are experienced as being rooted in bias.
Impact
physical, psychological and/or emotional responses to bias-related incidents, behaviors, interactions and/or practices.
Impacted party
individuals or groups who are harmed by the behaviors or actions of a responsible person or group.
Responsible person/groups
individuals or groups whose actions have, regardless of intent, caused harm to or impacted others and/or the community.
Restorative practices
community-focused processes and dialogues designed to allow individuals and groups to explore and hopefully resolve interpersonal conflict that has resulted in harm.

Anonymous Reporting Option

The Bias Incident Report Form (go/bias) provides individuals with the option of reporting incidents anonymously. However, any report submitted anonymously prevents CBRT from following up to address impact. Thus, anonymous reports are used solely to compile data on the overall campus climate. If a response to a bias incident is requested, individuals should include their name and contact information on the Bias Incident Response Form.

Open Expression and Bias Impact

Open expressions of opinion on social or political topics (e.g., race, gender, gender identity) are allowed at Middlebury and therefore are not subject to disciplinary responses. However, we acknowledge that expressions of opinion can have harmful impacts on individuals and on the broader living and learning community, regardless of intention. In some instances, social or political actions, speech, policies, and practices undervalue personal rights, dehumanize individuals, and adversely impact an individual’s or a group’s sense of belonging. When this occurs, CBRT provides support for individuals and groups involved and facilitates conversations designed to promote greater awareness of impact and to allow for restoration following harm, even when it is unintentional.  

CBRT Process

When a member of the Middlebury community submits a bias incident report, they will receive an automatic response indicating that their report has been received. After the Community Bias Response Team reviews the report, a member of CBRT will follow up with the individual who submitted the report (unless the report was submitted anonymously) to assess any immediate support needs, ask any necessary follow-up or clarifying questions, and discuss potential next steps for the impacted individual(s). Following the consultation with impacted individual(s), CBRT will initiate an appropriate follow-up process, including referral to the appropriate unit on campus (Community Standards, Dean of Faculty, Civil Rights & Title IX, etc.) when reported incidents rise to the level of policy violations that might warrant investigation or sanction, though CBRT could still provide support for impacted individuals.

I. Report Submitted II. Initial Outreach III. Process Determination IV. Process Implementation
Automatic response indicating receipt of report sent to individual who submitted report, and report forwarded to CBRT for review. CBRT member contacts impacted individual(s) to identify immediate support needs, ask follow-up questions, and discuss potential next steps. CBRT discusses next steps based on feedback from impacted individual(s) and initiates appropriate follow-up. Can include a campus-wide email (in cases where the impact is not localized and/or in cases where the responsibility party is unknown, such as in cases of the public defacement or removal of posters or comments written on the whiteboard outside a student’s residence); can include a conversation between a CBRT member and the responsible party for the purpose of perspective taking and education; can include a restorative process (circle or conference).

CBRT Response Options

Affirmation and support for impacted individual(s)

The primary goal of CBRT is to provide support for individuals and groups who have been impacted by bias incidents. CBRT works with impacted individuals to determine the type of response sought and to initiate an appropriate follow up..

Educational conversation with responsible party

Often, individuals who have been impacted by a bias incident are focused on ensuring the responsible party understands how and why their behavior caused harm. In such cases, a member of CBRT will often arrange for an informal conversation with the responsible party to help them perspective take and understand the impact of their behavior on others.

Restorative circle or conference

In some cases, impacted individuals would like a space to explore and discuss the impact of an incident and how they will move forward. Restorative process allow for naming harm, listening to and educating one another, and for building, repairing and/or restoring relationships and communities. CBRT utilizes restorative processes either with impacted individuals only (harm circles) or by bringing together impacted individuals with the responsible party (restorative circles or conferences).

Statement to the campus community

In most cases, the impact of a bias incident is localized to the individual(s) present when a behavior happened. However, in some cases the impact either expands to the broader campus community (often through various forms of media) or the incident occurs in a public space and the responsible party is unknown. In such cases, CBRT may opt to send a message to the campus community to name the incident and its impact and to encourage impacted individuals to seek support.

Community Bias Response Team
219 Service Building
Middlebury, VT 05753

fernande@middlebury.edu
(802) 443-5792