Bias/Discrimination FAQ’s

Bias is the personal, unreasoned judgment or attitude that inclines an individual to treat others negatively because of their actual or perceived membership in a specific group, particularly a group that is a “protected characteristic.”

Protected characteristics include:

  • Age
  • Color
  • Disability
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Marital status
  • Military or veteran status
  • National origin
  • Personal appearance
  • Political affiliation
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Any other characteristic protected by law

Generally, bias-related acts are characterized by some expression of hate or bias against a particular group, or towards and individual because of their actual or perceived membership in that group.  Bias incidents may range from acts considered to be offensive to actions that cause harm.

Although bias-related acts sometimes constitute discrimination (as defined under the University’s Diversity and Nondiscrimination – EWU Policy 402-02), or hate crimes (as defined by federal, state or local law), not all bias incidents rise to the level of discrimination or a hate crime.

Bias acts may be verbal, written, or contained in an image, or physical in nature. These behaviors often contribute to creating an unsafe or unwelcoming environment for individuals and groups. Acts can qualify as bias acts even when delivered with humorous intent or presented as a joke or a prank.

EWU believes that diversity and inclusion are crucial to an educational institution’s pursuit of excellence in learning, research, and service. We strive to build a community of respect for all community members. Acts of bias, hate, or discrimination do not align with EWU’s commitment to educating citizen leaders equipped to thrive and to serve in our increasingly diverse and global society.

Staff involved in the EWU Bias Incident Response process focus on:

  • Supporting students who are targets or witnesses of hate or bias incidents
  • Referring students to available campus resources and services
  • Promoting dialogue within the campus community about the impact of bias
  • Advocating for new programs, initiatives, policies, and services that will promote a more inclusive community
  • Reviewing all complaints to determine whether or not the behavior reported is against the Student Code of Conduct and act accordingly

Bias-related acts and hate crimes both involve behavior that is motivated by bias. However, there are important distinctions between them.

Bias-related acts are essentially prejudiced behaviors toward individuals because of their actual or perceived membership in a protected characteristic. Some bias-related acts are not university policy violations or hate crimes. Even when offenders are not aware of bias, do not intend to offend others, or do not violate law or university policy, bias may be revealed that is worthy of a response and/or an opportunity for education. Bias-related acts are antithetical to the university’s values of fundamental human dignity and equality, and they require the commitment of the university community to successfully address them.

Examples of bias-related acts may include:

  • Name calling; using a racial, ethnic or other slur to identify someone; or using degrading language
  • Creating racist or derogatory images/drawings
  • Imitating someone with a disability, or imitating someone’s cultural norm or practice
  • Making jokes or using stereotypes when talking to someone
  • Use of dehumanizing, derogatory, or insulting language based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender or disability in person, in writing, on social media, on whiteboards.

A hate crime is a violation of the law and could be investigated by EWU Police and/or other law enforcement agencies.  Members of the EWU community may be held accountable for such actions under the Student Conduct Code or other relevant polices, in addition to action taken through the legal system.

Hate crimes are also motivated by bias, but in addition they include a definable crime such as:

  • a threat of violence
  • property damage
  • personal injury
  • or other illegal conduct

Discrimination is adverse treatment of an individual based on a protected characteristic, rather than individual merit. Examples of conduct that can constitute discrimination if based on an individual’s protected characteristic include but are not limited to:

  • Singling out or targeting an individual for different or less favorable treatment (e.g., more severe discipline, denial of promotion) because of their protected characteristic
  • Failing or refusing to hire an individual because of their protected characteristic
  • Failing or refusing to allow an individual to participate in a student organization or activity based on their protected characteristic
  • Terminating an individual from employment or an educational program based on their protected characteristic.

Students can initiate a disciplinary process for discrimination by bringing their concerns to the Student Rights and Responsibilities office or by filling out the Bias Incident Report form.

Phone: 509-359-6960



EWU recognizes that words and actions can compromise the mental health, emotional well-being, physical safety and academic performance of our students, faculty, staff and community. We are also committed to protecting the First Amendment rights of students, staff, faculty and community members.

As a public institution of higher education, we are tasked with balancing the safety and well-being of our community with its right to freely express ideas and viewpoints that may not reflect our stated values. EWU is committed to continually reviewing our policies, procedures, and systems to ensure that we effectively address bias while upholding our legal obligation to free speech.

Hate speech does not reflect EWU values nor does it align with our clear commitment to advancing equality and justice. Any signage or symbolism that promotes hate speech, including flyers and graffiti, are not tolerated and will be removed. For additional steps with respect to how EWU will respond to reports of bias, please see the Bias Incident Response Work Flow.

In Washington, a person is guilty of a hate crime offense if they maliciously and intentionally commit one of the acts listed below based on the attacker’s perception of a victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, or mental, physical, or sensory disability:

  • Physical injury to the victim or anyone else.
  • Damage or destruction of the property of the victim or another person.
  • Threats to a person or group of people in such a way that causes the victims to have a “reasonable fear” that the attacker will cause physical injury or property damage.

Hate crimes are considered a class C felony in Washington State and carry a maximum sentence of five years of imprisonment and/or a $100,000 fine. The victim of hate crimes can bring a civil lawsuit against the harasser for actual damages, punitive damages of up to $100,000, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in bringing the action.

RCW 9A.36.080RCW 9A.36.083 

To report a hate crime:

EWU Police non-emergency         509-359-7676

In an Emergency                              911

For information about Diversity at EWU, visit