Campus News

Report: UW-Madison bias incidents increase from last year; race, ethnicity most common targets

UW-Madison saw an uptick in reported incidents of bias in the first half of 2017.

Reported bias-related incidents at UW-Madison increased this spring from the same period in 2016, with incidents involving race or ethnicity making up 36 percent of the reports.

A new UW-Madison report, released Thursday, said 74 bias incidents were reported in spring of 2017, while 66 incidents were reported during the first semester of last year. After race and ethnicity, the most common bias targets were national origin, at 13 percent, and gender, at 12 percent.

Two of the 74 incidents last spring led to further disciplinary investigation by the university, and none led to a hate crime charge.

UW-Madison defines “bias” as “single or multiple acts toward an individual, group, or their property that are so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that they create an unreasonably intimidating, hostile, or offensive work, learning, or program environment,” and specifies these are incidents “one could reasonably conclude” are based on race, gender, religion, disability, or a number of other factors.

Graduate and professional students were much more likely to report incidents of bias than undergraduates. Although there are many more undergraduates on campus, they made up just 35 percent of bias reporters.

44 percent of the students reporting bias were white, the report said, while 20 percent were international students from Asia. 48 percent of the incidents happened on campus, not including residence and dining halls, with 22 percent occurring online, 18 percent occurring in residence halls and 12 percent occurring off campus.

Most of the reported incidents involved written or verbal harassment, but three physical assaults were reported as well.

After race and ethnicity, national origin and gender, the most common targets were religion at 9 percent, gender identity at 8 percent, political affiliation at 7 percent and sexual orientation at 6 percent.

The bias incident report comes just two weeks after the results of the first ever UW-Madison campus climate survey, which found underrepresented students have a significantly less positive view of the university environment than other students. 

UW-Madison uses an online bias reporting system which it has publicized more aggressively in recent years. Administrators said greater student knowledge of the system may have contributed to the uptick in reports.

Additionally, it is “hard to say” whether UW-Madison’s bias numbers line up with those at other schools, a UW-Madison administrator said in a call with reporters Thursday, because these systems are all very new.

Lawrence Andrea contributed to this report. 

UPDATE Nov. 16, 10:54 p.m.: This post was updated to include additional information. 

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