Bias Incident Response Team

Saint Mary’s created the Bias Incident ResponseTeam (BIRT) in 2011. BIRT has been an important step in creating a living and learning community that is safe and where its members are respectful of each other.

Faculty, staff and student leaders make it clear that incidents which degrade people based on their social identification, whether gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or other affinity, are unacceptable on campus.

In August 2011, 20 staff members, faculty and students underwent a three-day training program to be members of BIRT and divided into two groups to handle its various duties. One group is responsible for education and responding to incidents, and the other is in charge of promotion and training.

BIRT holds regular meetings, with the entire group getting together once a month, and each of the subcommittees also meeting once a month. When a bias incident is reported, members of the team come together within 24 hours to respond to the problem.

Each occurrence is treated individually in a way that is appropriate to the particular incident.The goal of BIRT is to determine how to support the victim, group or organization that was the target of the bias incident.The team may organize cleanup of graffiti or take care of other damage. In certain instances, flyers denouncing an act are posted throughout campus.

The Undergraduate Student Handbook now includes a section on bias incidents, defining the concept so students will be able to identify one when it happens.The handbook explains the role of BIRT and outlines the various ways to report an incident, which can be done anonymously online, through Public Safety, the dean of students, the Intercultural Center, Community Life or Ethnic Studies, or any of the BIRT members.This year the team is developing a communications and marketing plan to make sure all students on campus become aware of how to handle bias incidents.