Syracuse University

What is bias?

How to spot bias

Bias is...

Treating someone negatively because of their actual or perceived:

  • Age
  • Creed
  • (Dis)ability
  • Ethnic or national origin
  • Gender, gender identity, or gender expression
  • Marital status
  • Political or social affiliation
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation

Some examples of bias incidents include:

  • Telling jokes based on a stereotype
  • Name-calling
  • Stereotyping
  • Offensive graffiti or images/drawing
  • Avoiding or excluding others
  • Posting or commenting on social media related to someone’s identity in a bias matter 
  • Calling someone the r-word, n-word, f-word… (in person, in writing, on social media, white boards, etc.) 
  • Using the phrase ‘no homo’
  • Calling a person or a behavior ‘gay’ as an insult
  • Making jokes or using stereotypes when talking about someone
  • Saying that all ______ [people of a certain group or identity] are _____ [stereotyping]
  • Using a racial, ethnic, or other slur to identify someone
  • Making a joke about someone being deaf or hard of hearing, or blind, etc.
  • Imitating someone with any kind of disability, or imitating someone’s cultural norm or practice
  • Making comments on social media about someone’s disability, ethnicity, race, national origin, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, religion, or political affiliations/beliefs
  • Writing on a white board about someone’s disability, ethnicity, national origin, race, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, religion, or political affiliations/beliefs
  • Displaying a sign that is color-coded pink for girls and blue for boys
  • Telling someone that they have to wear pants because they are man and a skirt because they are female [or other specific limitations and expectations]
  • Drawing faith symbols on someone’s door not from the same belief, or drawing or writing over someone’s faith symbols
  • Taking down someone else’s holiday decoration because you do not believe in that faith
  • Drawing or creating pictures that imitate, stereotype, or belittle/ridicule someone because of their gender, gender expression, race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, faith, or political affiliation

Bias stems from:

  • Fear
  • Misunderstanding
  • Hatred
  • Stereotypes


Is a bias-related incident the same as a hate crime?
Bias-related incidents and hate crimes both involve behavior that is motivated by bias. However, it is important to note the distinction between the two.

Bias-related incidents are defined as behavior which constitutes an expression of hostility against the person or property of another because of the targeted person's age, creed, disability, ethnic or national origin, gender, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, political or social affiliation, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Even when offenders are not aware of bias or intend to offend, bias may be revealed which is worthy of a response and can serve as an opportunity for education.

Bias-related incidents, while abhorrent and intolerable, do not meet the necessary elements required to prove a crime. However, bias-related incidents do require the active participation of a community committed to fundamental human dignity and equality to successfully address. Please report bias-related incidents http://reportbias.syr.edu. For consultation, support, and referrals, contact the Office of Student Assistance at 315-443-4357.

Hate crimes are also motivated by bias, but they include a definable crime, such as: threats of violence, property damage, personal injury and other illegal conduct. A hate crime is an infraction of the law and will be addressed accordingly. Please report hate crimes to the Department of Public Safety at 315-443-2224, #SU (#78) from a cell phone.