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Stand Up: How to Help in Bias Situations

It can be easy to forget that bias speech remains a pervasive problem. Whether people are joking about stereotypes (women, people of color, LGBTQ, etc.) or using outright slurs, there are several non-confrontational ways to de-escalate a situation when hateful language is being used. When a person making racist, sexist or homophobic comments wonders why others are sensitive to their remarks, it creates an opportunity for dialogue. 

If you experience or witness bias activity

There are a few things you can do in the moment:

  • Tell the person, “That’s not okay” in a calm, clear voice.
  • Avoid escalating the situation. Teasing the person, calling them names or threatening to fight will only make things worse. Don't yell or take steps toward physical violence. 
  • If speaking up is too hard or not safe, walk away and stay away.
  • If the incident happened in class, talk to or e-mail the professor or teaching assistant and tell them what happened.
  • Avoid the person until you have taken other steps (like talking to an RA, RD, or Dean of Students staff) to help prevent a reoccurrence.

Depending on the circumstances, intervening in bias incident can include:

  • Calling UMPD at (413) 525-2121, or 911 in an emergency.
  • Interrupting the behavior (if it is safe to do so).
  • Expressing compassion to any person(s) impacted.
  • Taking photos or collecting other documentation.
  • Reporting the bias activity using the Incident Statement form. Any member of or visitor to the campus community may report bias activity; the privacy of reporting parties is treated with the utmost respect.

If someone you know has experienced violence, bullying, harassment, or hazing:

  • Talk to the person. Express concern and care. Be gentle. Remember that the person may feel embarrassed, scared, or sensitive about the situation.
  • Let them know you care. It helps to let the person know they are not alone. If they have been bullied, reminding them of their many great qualities can help rebuild their self-esteem. Make a special effort to spend time with them and include them in your social circle.
  • Listen to and believe what they tell you. Avoid criticizing, sounding judgmental, minimizing or blaming.
  • Encourage them to save all texts, e-mails, and other digital communications as downloaded files and/or hard copies
  • Offer to make phone calls for them or walk/ drive them to the Dean of Students Office or UMPD. Encourage the person to seek medical attention if needed. Offer to walk/drive them to University Health Services.