What is Bias?

Bias, according to Oxford Languages, is prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way to be considered to be unfair.

A bias incident refers to single or multiple acts toward an individual, group, or their property that are offensive and prejudiced and result in creating harmful, negative, and non-inclusive living, learning, and working environments. They are based upon actual or perceived identities, which can include but are not limited to race, ethnicity, age, gender identity or expression, disability, or any combination of these or other factors. Incidents of bias can include microaggressions, slurs, degrading language, epithets, graffiti, vandalism, intimidation, symbols, assault and harassment.

There’s also unintentional or unconscious bias. Sometimes stereotypes and biases are a byproduct of our socialization and experiences before we come to UW-Madison and during our time here. How do we change from being well-intentioned to understanding the impact of bias and to break this habit? According to Dr. Will Cox of the Stereotyping and Bias Research (SABR) Lab, you need the following conditions to break the bias habit:

  • Motivation to eliminate the habit
  • Awareness of personal vulnerability to the habit and how it manifests
  • Tools to disrupt the habit and replaces it with intended responses
  • Effort over time to break the habit

UW-Madison recognizes the profound impact that bias incidents, which target specific identities, can have; this impact often extends well beyond the intended individual(s) and group. We ask that you intervene when you can and report incidents. UW-Madison and University Housing respond to all bias incidents and may pursue disciplinary action if the behavior violates university policy. If you experience or become aware of any future incidents that compromise the values of our community, please seek assistance from these resources in University Housing and on campus:

Upcoming Holidays & Observances

March 8: International Women’s Day – a global celebration honoring women’s economic, political and social achievements.