If an incident of hateful expression occurs in a residence


    Amass as much information as possible about the expressive act deemed hateful. Determine whether or not the message constitutes a threat of imminent lawless action (if the action is imminent and likely to occur), harassment (if unwelcome, severe, pervasive, objectively offensive, detracts from the individual’s access to their education), or if the message might be a potential hate crime (if involving vandalism, destruction of property, or other criminal activity). Coordinate with law enforcement if appropriate. When incidents of hateful expression occur, information often spreads quickly throughout the campus. If administrators do not work to fully understand the incident and inform the campus, students may be subject to inaccurate information about the incident.


    When emotions run high, it is crucial for the community to be heard. Listening to community members’ concerns in an earnest way is important. Be active, present, and visible. An immediate public response, even if only to say that residence leaders are aware, concerned, and investigating, is crucial in lessening fear and confusion after a hateful incident has occurred.


    Reach out to all relevant stakeholders (affected students, student groups, residence faculty, the diversity office) and confer with them to arrive at a response that reflects their input as much as possible, as well as the full range of responsibilities of the residence. 


    When communicating about instances of hateful speech, starting with a defense of free speech can sometimes be alienating for those who feel hurt. It is better to first characterize the hateful speech as morally offensive and only then, and as appropriate, make clear that it is nonetheless a protected form of speech. It may be appropriate to open a campus forum where students can ask questions and express their views about the incident. These forums should center the experiences of individuals directly affected by the incident.


    In messages sent out to the campus community or shared on public platforms, assert core values, such as inclusion, tolerance, and mutual respect.


    Engage in specific outreach to targeted communities and express both support for and solidarity with them. Provide them with information about campus counseling and support services, cultural centers, faculty and staff assistance, spiritual life offices, and other resources.


    Depending on the type of incident, consider whether any disciplinary measures are appropriate, in line with campus policies. For hate crimes, harassment, and any other conduct that violates the law, a disciplinary response will be warranted. 


    Even when disciplinary action is not appropriate, other responses include counseling, education, or adjusting rooming arrangements could be pursued. Residence staff should work with any relevant campus units that deal with hate or bias to consider and develop a range of ways of responding to hate in their residences.


    Create spaces for community reflection and healing. Residence staff can consider organizing opportunities for their residents to speak out against hate or larger issues or concerns that go beyond the specific incident. Any formal responses will spark conversation; be as transparent as possible and continue engaging with residents. Where possible, create a mechanism for residence staff to elevate these concerns to leaders and to other campus units.


    Establish mechanisms to review and evaluate the effectiveness of your response. Understand that coordinated responses to controversial expression involve ongoing conversation; appraisals relating to issues of inclusion or free speech are not one-time events. Instead, they are elements of a complex ongoing relationship between communities and those who lead them.

Further Reading