Institute centralizes bias reporting for students
Gender- and non-gender-based bias collated under Title IX and Bias Response office
Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart announced in an email to the MIT community Sept. 1 that all types of bias involving students would be incorporated into the Title IX office, which previously only handled gender-related cases, thus forming the Title IX and Bias Response (T9BR) office. During its first semester, T9BR received around ten reports of non-gender-based bias, T9BR Director Sarah Rankin wrote in an email to The Tech.
When discussing the transition to T9BR, Rankin wrote, “We now have a centralized website and online reporting form that makes it much easier for all members of our community to report any form of bias that occurs on campus.” Rankin emphasized the importance of tracking bias across campus to “identify any requests, trends or opportunities for community education, training and outreach, or changes to existing practices.”
Prior to T9BR, there was no central office to report bias incidents, according to Rankin Complaints against students were handled by the Office of Student Conduct, with the Committee on Discipline deciding the outcome. Now, T9BR investigates complaints, with COD still deciding outcomes.
Complaints against faculty and staff continue to be handled by Human Resources. However, Rankin added, “In all cases T9BR can serve as an initial resource to report bias incidents.”
Most of the reports so far have been anonymous, and no reports resulted in a formal investigation. By comparison, the number of reports received for gender-related bias last academic year was 110, with 12 leading to formal investigations.
When asked about the difference in the number of reports, Rankin was hesitant to forecast, but wrote, “As more people learn about what constitutes sexual misconduct and where to go for help, reporting has increased. It’s possible we could see the same trends for non-gender bias cases as our community education and outreach work continues.”
Despite the new centralized structure, gender- and non-gender-based bias are still treated differently.
Based on COD Rules and Regulations (CODRR), The Tech noted some differences between the handling of the two types of bias. As of press time, these have not been confirmed or denied by the COD.
If the complaint is against non-gender-based bias, the person bringing forth the complaint is not informed about the outcome of a formal investigation (CODRR XIII.D and IX.G.ii) and generally cannot appeal a decision (CODRR XIII.C and XII).
Sexual misconduct cases are heard by members of the COD Sexual Misconduct Subcommittee, who receive specialized training (CODRR XIII.E.i); on the other hand, cases involving non-gender-based bias can include COD members without specific training in the relevant areas.
During hearings related to sexual misconduct, the two parties are physically in different rooms, unless both parties agree to be in the same room. In hearings related to non-gender-based bias, whether the parties are in the same room or not is left up to the chair of the COD (CODRR XIV.F and XI.F.iv).
According to Rankin, T9BR is “still considering how to share [reports of non-gender-based bias] in a way that balances our responsibility to protect student anonymity and our commitment to transparency.”
When asked about the future path of T9BR, Rankin wrote, “We will continue to work on our procedures to improve our response, and we hope to conduct some focus groups with students to better understand their needs and questions.”
Incidents of bias can be reported at t9br.mit.edu.