Classroom Interactions and Bias Reporting

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

Since the terror attack in Israel on Oct. 7 and as the conflict between Israel and Hamas has escalated, we are hearing from many in our community about how they are experiencing these difficult times. In particular, some of our students have reported having classroom experiences that have made them feel called out, unable to offer their views or otherwise. A few have expressed feeling unsafe. Some of these reports have stemmed from classrooms where the conflict in the Middle East has surfaced as a topic of discussion.

These lived experiences of our students, especially our Jewish and Muslim students, are coming to light in the form of STOP Bias complaints. Some of these complaints were filed after an academic department issued a solidarity statement via a University listserv, and following one particular classroom discussion that was captured on cell phone video. This video shows a faculty member sharing with their students that the department and its faculty were the subject of these bias reports. Bias reporting is an important function of the University, and any action or language perceived to have a chilling effect on filing a report is contradictory to our commitment to being inclusive. This incident, and all bias reports, will be formally addressed and investigated through our established University processes. Conduct violating University policies will be dealt with appropriately according to a range of outcomes depending on the findings.

I remain committed to the free exchange of ideas and constructive public discourse, both hallmarks of higher education. Such dialogue can be especially valuable in moments like these. In a time when so many students—from a number of backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures and religions—are feeling vulnerable and threatened, we, as faculty, must ensure that our teaching practices do not contribute to an already fearful environment.

I recognize how deeply the conflict is impacting all of us. As a reminder, there are resources available to support you both inside and outside the classroom. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the Academic Affairs team if you need additional support.


Gretchen Ritter
Vice Chancellor, Provost and Chief Academic Officer