Bias and Bias Related Incidents

Bias can be defined as an inclination, temperament or prejudice for or against persons because of their memberships in a protected class, especially in a way considered to be unfair. While bias can take many shapes, it typically results in a state of emotional discomfort and insecurity for the victim. An incident that is motivated by bias may include such things as offensive conduct or language toward a person or group because of membership in a protected class. It may also include discrimination or expressions of disrespect motivated by bias or hate against actual or perceived race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, genetic discrimination or veteran status. 

Montana State University uses these definitions as guides to determine what constitutes a bias related incident. While these definitions are used to determine what falls in to the category of bias incidents, it is important to note that it should not be used to interpret whether or not a law has been violated. 

Any act motivated by bias, such as graffiti, offensive name-calling, and threats are examples of bias incident scan be reported using this form

Reporting incidents via BIRS does not constitute filing official complaints or grievances concerning university policies and procedures.

The severity of the incident may require the Bias Incident Reporting Team to involve law enforcement.

Discrimination and Harassment

Unlawful discrimination refers to specific conduct prohibited by law that unfairly treats people differently because of their characteristic or perceived characteristics that the law deems to be unrelated to merit. An example of unlawful discrimination would be to deny membership into a group because a person is Muslim.  The Montana University System as well as MSU have non-discrimination policies that are more specific than a general bias incident. A bias incident is typically defined more broadly than an act of discrimination or harassment. To learn more about or to report harassment and discrimination, please contact the Office of Institutional Equity.

Hate Crimes

In Montana, hate crimes are considered  malicious intimidation or harassment relating to civil or human rights and includes bodily injury, threat of injury, or damage to property (see, M.C.A. § 45-5-221 ).

In the Campus Security and Crime Policy Report, a hate crime is a criminal offense committed against a person or property which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias.  Bias is a preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a group of persons based on their race, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity/national origin.

If you feel that you have been the target of, or witness to a hate crime, please contact University Police at (406) 994-2121 or MSU Chief Robert Putzke.

Bias Incidents and Conduct and Freedom of Speech

MSU values freedom of expression and the open exchange of ideas and, in particular, the expression of controversial ideas and differing views that is a vital part of the academic discourse and intellectual growth.

The conduct underlying some bias incidents might be protected speech, but still violate the Montana State University’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity. Constitutional rights will continue to be protected, and University community members will also exercise the right to speak, engage in educational dialogue, and seek a constructive response rooted in the university's mission and vision.

Although students have a fundamental right to free speech, this does not preclude Montana State University from taking action when a student’s speech or expression has impacted another student, faculty or staff’s ability to work and learn in an environment free of bias.