Bias Response and Support System

access the BRSS

Our community at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health is committed to creating an inclusive working, learning, and living environment where all are respected. The occurrence of Bias-related incidents, involving conduct, speech, or expressions reflecting prejudice create an opportunity for learning and growing as a community. At the request of faculty, students, and staff, and in partnership with Student Conduct and Community Standards (SCCS) and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA), the School has developed a Bias Response & Support System (BRSS) that will aid us in:

  • Addressing bias-related concerns

  • Ensuring that community members receive necessary support

  • Identifying patterns of bias and best practices in promoting a bias-free environment that will be used to inform future programming and further our growth as an inclusive community

  • Facilitating faculty and staff members’ duty to report discrimination and harassment

The BRSS is rooted in the restorative elements of African indigenous American and Māori culture. While the current framing of justice in the West relies on right/wrong and guilty/innocence binaries with the goal of punishment, restorative justice centers healing communities and repairing harm, recognizing that harms produce obligations or opportunities for accountability. Restorative justice recognizes the needs of those harmed, those who have caused harm, and the community. 

Please msph-odci [at] columbia.edu (email) the Office of Diversity, Culture, and Inclusion if you have additional questions.

Why the BRSS?

BRSS is one of many tools provided by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health that will support us as we co-create a community dedicated to learning and developing skills needed to bridge differences. BRSS will ensure that we hold each other and ourselves accountable to the School’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by acknowledging and addressing bias-related concerns.

Events and experiences communicated through the BRSS allow the Assistant Dean or Assistant Director of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion to connect community members with appropriate resources and support available at the School as well as to partner offices at the University. When events or experiences shared with through the BRSS involve specific allegations of discrimination, harassment, or gender-based misconduct that may violate University Policy, the Assistant Dean or Assistant Director of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion will collaborate with the appropriate partner offices, including EOAA and SCCS, to provide guidance and resources and to address the reported behavior.

Who may use the BRSS?

All members of our community (staff, students, faculty, and alumni) and anyone observing or experiencing a potential bias-related incident involving our community members can use this form to communicate with the Assistant Director of Diversity, Culture, and Inclusion. The system can be accessed with or without a UNI.

Community members are especially encouraged to notify the BRSS of events and experiences that are bias-free or inclusive.

What is a bias-related incident?

A bias-related incident occurs when language or behavior conveys conscious or unconscious prejudice against groups and individuals based on social identity membership (e.g., age, alienage or citizenship status; arrest or conviction record; caregiver status; color; credit history; creed; disability; familial status; gender; sex; gender identity; genetic predisposition or carrier status; lactation accommodation; marital status; national origin; pregnancy; religion; salary history; sexual or reproductive health decisions; sexual orientation; status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sex offenses; unemployment status; veteran or active military status; or any other protected characteristic as established by law). In some instances, a bias-related incident may violate University Policy.

The unconscious biases that we all hold reflect our socialization into various interlocking systems of oppression and often run counter to our espoused values. 

What are some examples of bias-related incidents?

Examples of bias-related incidents include, but are not limited to:

- Learning/working environment microaggressions. Microaggressions are “brief commonplace daily verbal, behavior, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative…slights and insults to the target person or group on the basis of their membership to a marginalized group” (Sue, 2010). 

- Cues in the learning/working environment that reinforce stereotypes about marginalized groups and individuals.  

- Cues in the learning/working environment that reify patterns or group and invidual marginalization.

- Feedback or appraisal based on identity. 

What happens if I notify the BRSS?

After the BRSS has received your notification, the Assistant Director of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion will review it within 48 hours to assess whether an incident appears to be bias-related, and then ensure that proper procedures are followed. In cases where an incident may be a University Policy violation, it will also be reviewed by EOAA where the conduct involves a faculty or staff member or by SCCS where the conduct involves a student.

Following the initial review several options for resolution will be offered. These include:

- Being contacted, within 48 hours of submitting your report, by either the Assistant Director of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion or a BRSS departmental liaison if you have agreed to being contacted;

- A conversation with individuals involved to explore options for resolution;

- Referrals to appropriate resources for those affected.

- Outreach by EOAA or SCCS where conduct may have involved a University Policy violation.

Of course, the option not to pursue further action is always available.  

In cases where someone other than the individual who experienced the bias-related incident notifies the BRSS, the Assistant Director of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion or a BRSS departmental liaison will make every effort to speak with the affected individual to discuss available on-campus/off-campus resources and options. 

Notifications made through the BRSS satisfy faculty and staff members’ duty to report to EOAA any instance or allegation of prohibited conduct involving any undergraduate or any graduate student.

What if I notify the BRSS anonymously?

Information from anonymous sources will be treated in a similar fashion. The Assistant Director of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion or a BRSS departmental liaison will make every effort to reach out to involved parties. Due to the nature of anonymous notifications, action in response to an anonymous notification may be limited. However, you are still encouraged to submit a notification. Any information entered into the BRSS will be useful in identifying and addressing experiences and patterns of bias in our community. 

What happens with the data gathered through the BRSS?

All data gathered through the BRSS will be de-identified and disaggregated by department/office, reviewed by the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT), and included in ODCI’s annual summary report so that we can monitor our progress and continue learning as a community.

Who are the members of BIRT?

Members of this advisory team include:

- The Assistant Dean for Diversity, Culture and Inclusion: Raygine DiAquoi

- The Co-Interim Vice Deans of Education: Linda Cushman and Clare Norton

- The Dean of Students: Sandi Garcia Bernal 

 

The team will meet quarterly to review notifications submitted to the BRSS.