Skip to Content

What Is Bias

The University defines “bias complaint” as “any report of a threat or act of harassment or intimidation – verbal, written or physical – which is personally directed against or targets a University of Virginia student because of that student's age, color, disability, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status or family medical or genetic information."

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

The University encourages prompt reporting of bias complaints so that it can evaluate the alleged facts for possible violation(s) of University policy, including the Standards of Conduct, and refer such complaints to law enforcement when an independent investigation for violation(s) of criminal law may be warranted.

Although the expression of an idea or point of view may be offensive or inflammatory to some, it is not necessarily a violation of law or University policy. The University values and embraces the ideals of freedom of inquiry, freedom of thought, and freedom of expression, all of which must be vitally sustained in a community of scholars. While these freedoms protect controversial ideas and differing views, and sometimes even offensive and hurtful words, they do not protect personal threats or acts of misconduct which violate criminal law or University policy.

What is the University's policy for preventing and addressing discrimination and harassment?

The University will not tolerate discrimination or harassment in the workplace, academic setting or in its programs or activities. The Office of Equal Opportunity Programs (“EOP”) investigates complaints of violations of the University's "Preventing and Addressing Discrimination and Harassment" Policy and "Preventing and Addressing Retaliation" Policy. Complaints may be filed by present and former employees of the University, students, applicants for admission or employment and participants in University programs or activities (includes customers for services, vendors, contractors, and volunteers) alleging discrimination or harassment on the basis of a protected category and/or retaliation for complaining of discrimination or harassment or assisting with or participating in the complaint process. Protected categories included in University policy are age, color, disability, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status or family medical or genetic information. For more information on the EOP complaint procedures, see the EOP website.

What are the University's Standards of Conduct?

The Board of Visitors adopts the University's Standards of Conduct, which describe behavior generally prohibited by enrolled students. The University Judiciary Committee (“UJC”) is authorized by the Board of Visitors to investigate and adjudicate alleged violations of the Standards of Conduct. There are twelve Standards of Conduct, many of which, depending on the facts, may apply to incidents of bias. The UJC Constitution further provides that “any violation of the University Standards of Conduct motivated by the age, color, disability, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, or veteran status of the victim will be deemed an aggravating circumstance, and will result in a more serious sanction up to, and including, expulsion from the University.” For more information on the UJC and its procedures, see the UJC website.

What are hate crimes?

Hate crimes (also known as bias 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.

Federal Hate Crimes: Federal law currently permits federal prosecution of hate crimes committed on the basis of a person's race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. The FBI investigates acts that fall within these statutes. For information on federal hate crime legislation and the FBI's enforcement of it, see the FBI website. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)/FBI, as well as campus security authorities, are required to collect and publish hate crime statistics.

State Hate Crimes: Virginia currently restricts hate crimes to violence based on race, religious conviction, color or national origin. State and local law enforcement agencies investigate acts that fall within Virginia law. There are three Virginia statutes that specifically address hate crimes:

One enhances the criminal penalties for acts of assault and battery when such acts were based upon a person's race, religious conviction, color or national origin: Statute on Assault and Battery.

The other 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 Hate Crimes Reporting Act.

A third Virginia statute 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 court: Statute on Civil action for Racial, Religious, or Ethnic Harassment, Violence or Vandalism.