The University of Massachusetts Amherst

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.