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Responding to Campus Bigotry
Taking Action Against Hate
Hate Crimes and Bias Incidents
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Responding to Bigotry and Intergroup Strife on Campus:
Guide for College and University Administrators RULE
Hate Crimes and Bias Incidents

Hate crimes are criminal acts against a person or property in which the perpetrator chooses the victim because of the victim’s real or perceived race, religion, gender, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Hate crimes affect entire communities, not just the victim. For this reason, many states have adopted hate crimes laws that call for more severe penalties when crimes are determined to be motivated by hate. The organization Partners Against Hate provides a listing of hate crime laws across the country, at

Bias incidents reflect a similar animus but may not reach the legally defined threshold of criminality. Such incidents include hate-motivated behaviors that may not be “criminal,” such as taunting, verbal harassment, bias-motivated bullying and intimidation. Some examples include the posting or circulating of demeaning jokes, printed material, caricatures or hate-group literature. Although they are not considered hate crimes, these incidents should be considered serious incidents that can have long-lasting negative effects on both students and faculty.


Hate violence is distinguished by its unique impact on both individual victims and the larger community. Victims of bias crimes are often attacked because they are perceived as being different, outside a rigidly defined “acceptable social norm,” and often because they are hated for no other reason than their personal identity/characteristic. Because the basis for the attack is the victims’ identity, victims may feel a deeper trauma or reaction to the crime. They may feel powerless to control whether or not the crime happens again because their vulnerability is based on an aspect of their identity.  

If their membership in a target group is not readily apparent, victims of bias crimes may feel afraid to associate with other members of a group that has been targeted.  They also may fail to seek needed services, believing that these actions may “out” them or increase their vulnerability. There is also the potential for victims of bias crimes to feel that the crimes are diminished in the eyes of the community because of societal stereotyping, prejudice or an attitude of indifference exhibited by law enforcement officials or civic leaders.

Because the motive is connected to the victims’ actual or perceived identity, victims have no negotiating power with the offender to minimize their injury (e.g., they cannot merely give the offender money or jewelry as they would to a mugger). In bias crimes, violence, intimidation or humiliation is often the goal, not just a means, of gaining compliance. Therefore, bias crimes are often more violent than crimes that are not motivated by bias. Statistics show that bias crimes can be up to four times more violent, resulting in four times the number of victims requiring hospital stays as a result of their injuries than victims of crimes that are not motivated by bias.19

Hate and bias crime affect entire communities, not just members of the targeted group. Fear and humiliation may not be felt by the victim alone, but by the victim’s community as well.  While the victim feels fear, anger and intimidation, others in the target’s community may feel some of the same emotions. Members of the campus community, as well as the larger community, may be embarrassed by the message the crime sends to the outside world about the atmosphere on campus. The campus may be polarized by the crime, making the victim and his/her identity group feel isolated and suspicious of others. As a result, community spirit may be diminished and overall tensions may increase.


The motivation behind an act determines whether a crime is bias-related. Although no one factor is conclusive, the following criteria, applied singly or in combination, can assist in determining if a crime was motivated entirely or in part because of the person or group’s race, religion, gender, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
  1. Words, symbols or acts that are or may be offensive to an identifiable group were used by the perpetrator or are present as evidence. For example, there is a burning cross, a painted swastika or derogatory words, slurs or graffiti directed at a particular racial, religious, ethnic or other group.
  2. The victim and the suspected perpetrator are members of different social identity-based groups, such as racial or religious groups.
  3. The victim or the victim’s group has been subjected to past incidents of a similar nature.
  4. There has been recent tension or hostility between the victim’s group and another group.
  5. The victim is the only member of the targeted group (or one of just a few people) on campus. 
  6. Multiple incidents occurred at the same time, and all victims are of the same race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or other social identity-based group.
  7. A meaningful portion of the community perceives and responds to the crime as a bias-related incident.
  8. The crime appears to be timed to coincide with a specific holiday or date of significance (e.g., Martin Luther King Day, Rosh Hashanah).
  9. The victim has been involved in recent public activity that would possibly make the person a target. For example, the victim had been associated with prominent recent or past activities relating to race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. (e.g., NAACP, LGBT rights rally, demonstrations by or against the Ku Klux Klan).
  10. There has been prior or recent news coverage of events of a similar nature.
  11. The manner and means of attack support the conclusion that the crime was bias-motivated (e.g., color of paint, symbols or signs utilized, unusual spelling of the words used).
  12. The modus operandi is similar to other documented incidents.
  13. There is an ongoing campus problem that may have initiated or contributed to the crime.
  14. The perpetrator has a true understanding of the impact of the crime on the victim or other group members.
  15. The crime indicates possible involvement by an organized hate group (e.g., printed or handwritten literature that contains an identifiable hate group symbol or insignia or hate group address; or the presence of documented or suspected organized hate group activity in the area).

  • Be prepared for an emotional response from the victim, family and targeted group, because the attack was based on the victim’s identity.
  • Recognize that the victim may be reluctant to cooperate in the investigation due to fear of retaliation, cultural or language barriers or fear of being “outed.”
  • Sincerely convey to the victim that law enforcement takes this very seriously and that you are sorry the incident happened. Do not appear hurried.
  • Do not minimize the victim’s feelings or the crime’s impact.
  • Allow victim to use own words. Use an interpreter, if necessary.
  • Do not make assumptions or jump to conclusions.
  • Interview away from public scrutiny, if possible.
  • Keep questions simple (victim may be distraught).
  • Pay attention to bias indicators.
  • Make certain victim is aware of next steps to be initiated.
  • Suggest to the victim and the members of the victim’s identity group that they can seek support and comfort from a number of community-based organizations. Have names and telephone numbers of victim-assistance organizations available.


Administrators, faculty, staff and students have an important responsibility to establish and maintain a tone of civility on campus by demanding and enforcing a policy of “zero indifference” toward all forms of bigotry, whether manifested through criminal action or not. The most important action an administrator can take following a hate crime or bias incident is to release a statement condemning that act immediately after the crime is committed. Although the motivations of specific individuals on campus who commit hate crimes and incidents often can be complex, confused and difficult to determine, the administration’s response should be clear, timely, unambiguous and public. It is crucial that the administration take immediate steps to alert the entire campus and detail how the situation will be handled. Sending a mixed or muddled message may appear as tacit approval.

In order to quickly and effectively deal with hate crime incidents and other emergencies, campuses should establish university response protocols. These protocols should be communicated through student policy manuals, orientation materials, the institution’s Web site and clear, step-by-step instructions placed in every campus building.

The final step of a response protocol should be reporting the crime to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Reporting hate crimes on campus is a crucial part of dealing with bigotry and intergroup strife. The Clery Act (20 U.S.C. § 1092(f)) was enacted in 1992 to require colleges and universities across the nation to report campus crimes and security policies to both the campus community and the U.S. Department of Education. In addition to policy and reporting requirements, it specifies that schools must report separately those crimes that appear to have been motivated by prejudice.

Out of concern for their public image, colleges and universities tend to either report the crime without indicating that it was bias-motivated, or fail to report the crime at all. However, without accurate information, the FBI is unable to identify nationwide trends and allocate resources to assist universities in handling bias-motivated incidents.

For information on extremist groups and for hate crimes training seminars, contact the Anti-Defamation League at

19Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt, Hate Crimes: The Rising Tide of Bigotry and Bloodshed. (New York: Plenum Press, 1993). supra note 6, at 11 (discussing a study of 452 hate crimes in the Boston area).

Table of Contents

Campus Presidents/ Senior Administrators Speak Out to Oppose Hate on Campus
Emory University

Given the hateful and repugnant character of [Khalid] Muhammad's utterances elsewhere, and the emotions that he arouses, I have grave doubts that his visit will serve any useful educational purpose... I believe that we must not let the event go forward... we have every reason to believe from his recent utterances elsewhere that the content will be factually untrue and have no academic or scholarly substance, and that he should not be given a forum at Emory.

Interim President Billy E. Frye regarding cancellation of Khalid Abdul Muhammad's appearance on the campus.

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