Understanding Hate Crimes

Hate crimes are traditional crimes that are motivated by the offender’s bias toward the victim because the victim is a member of a protected group. The Massachusetts hate crime statute specifies three elements of hate crimes: 1) underlying criminal offense, 2) offender’s intent, and 3) victim’s protected characteristics, which are race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

The determination of whether a campus incident rises to the level of a hate crime is not made by campus officials. Suspected violations of the hate crime statute are criminal and offenders are typically prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office.

Examples of Hate Crimes

  1. Harassment with assault 
    Three men harassed a female student at the University of California Santa Cruz, making offensive statements and then throwing a rock at her when she did not stop. Read the Chronicle of Higher Ed article on climate incidents in this category.

  2. Assault, threats, and homophobic slurs
    A student at a small college in Maine threatened another student with homophobic slurs and violently choked them in consecutive attacks. Read the Department of Justice Report [PDF].

  3. Pipe bomb targeting an HBCU and violent, racist message
    At a historically black university in Florida, a non-student detonated pipe bombs and afterward made violent, racist phone calls to a local news outlet.

Understanding Bias Incidents

A bias incident is an action taken against people or property that does not appear to constitute a crime or actionable discrimination, but which may intimidate, mock, degrade, or threaten a member or group. Hateful and offensive speech or symbols, although repugnant, are not necessarily violations of civil rights law or crimes. In fact, the FBI, which tracks all hate crimes, is careful to protect freedom of expression and civil liberties.

Examples of Bias Incidents

  1. White supremacist posters on campus 
    In December 2016, white supremacist posters naming a white supremacist group appeared on campus buildings at the University of Maryland at College Park. Read more about the incident.

  2. Profiling
    When two Muslim students from Nazareth College attended a church service for a “Sociology of Religion” course assignment, a local churchgoer called the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to report them. Read more about profiling incidents.