Hate and Bias Crimes
When hate crimes occur on a college campus, the ideal of a university as a place for learning and growth is breached. Bias-motivated violence or threats targeting students, staff, or faculty deprive everyone on campus of the chance to live and learn in an atmosphere free of fear and intimidation.
What is a Hate or Bias Crime?
Hate and bias crimes comprise a range of behaviors including threats, degrading language, slurs, violent physical assaults, and bombings, and occur on every type of campus in all regions of the country. According to the Stop the Hate! Training Manual, a hate crime is defined as:
A criminal offense committed against a person which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability status, ethnicity/national origin, gender or sexual orientation. Different states have various categories for hate crime law. Some may include the categories gender identity, age and, or political affiliation. Check with your state statutes [for specific laws related to hate crimes in your state].
Victims and Perpetrators
The U.S. Department of Justice (.pdf file requires Adobe Acrobat) reports that between 1997 and 1999, 61 percent of hate crimes and bias crimes were motivated by race, 14 percent by religion, 13 percent by sexual orientation, 11 percent by ethnicity, and one percent by victim disability. The Prejudice Institute estimates that 20–25 percent of students of color are victims of physical or psychological harm every year. A Yale University study showed that 42 percent of gay and lesbian students surveyed had suffered some form of physical aggression while at the university.
Perpetrators of hate and bias crimes are often young and sometimes use alcohol or other drugs heavily before committing hate-related violence. Hate crimes may begin with slurs or threats and escalate into violence or destruction of property over time.
Preventing Hate Crime on Campus
Hate and bias crimes are often underreported on campus for several reasons. Because students, faculty, and staff may not know what comprises a bias crime, people are unsure of what to report, when to report an incident, and to whom they should report an incident. Also, victims of hate crimes often are reluctant to come forward because they feel isolated or fear the potential repercussions of a perpetrator.
School administrators, campus law enforcement, faculty, and students can combat hate and bias crimes on campus by reporting incidents and condemning acts of hate on campus. Creating campus hate and bias crime policies, punishing offenders, and providing assistance to victims will help create an environment of zero tolerance for bias-motivated violence on campus. Finally, educating the campus community on what constitutes a hate or bias crime and when to report incidents assists both in stopping the escalation of bias incidents and preventing future hate crimes on campus.