Bias Education and Support Team

Occidental College is committed to maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for members of the Oxy community.

Starting Fall 2022, the College will be launching a new Bias Education and Support Team (BEST) to support the College’s commitment to a culture of greater inclusivity and belonging. At Oxy, a bias incident is defined as a behavior, whether intentional or unintentional, that constitutes hostility against a person or group because of their real or perceived identity. Oxy recognizes that such incidents can have tremendous impact on our community and can cause significant harm, even where they involve protected free speech or otherwise do not qualify as violations of College policy. BEST seeks to address this harm by providing support to impacted students, educational opportunities for faculty, staff, and students, and transparent information about the nature and frequency of bias events reported on campus.

Housed in the Division of Student Affairs and the Intercultural Community Center (ICC), BEST aims to provide students who have witnessed and/or experienced a bias incident an opportunity to be heard and supported. BEST is an educational, non-punitive approach to addressing these issues. BEST does not have authority to impose discipline on any student and cannot compel students to speak with BEST or participate in any supportive or educational measures. BEST is designed to inform the community about bias incidents and respond to interpersonal interactions, relational dynamics, and/or on-campus incidents that are more difficult to define than harassment or discrimination, but still may have a significant impact based on identity characteristics including, but not limited to, age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity and expression, sexual identity, socioeconomic class, educational level, religion/spirituality, national origin, ableness/disability, ethnicity, culture, size, English literacy, immigration status, and skin color, among others.  A few illustrative examples of bias incidents may include targeted graffiti, or transphobic jokes or racial epithets that may not be directed towards a specific individual. Bias incidents may or may not be intended to cause harm.

BEST will provide educational opportunities for faculty, staff and students regarding identity, intersectionality, microaggressions (including microinsults, microassaults and microinvalidations), while at the same time ensuring that the impact of bias incidents is addressed with intentionality and care.  After receiving a report, BEST seeks to respond in a timely manner and address the resulting harm to the fullest extent possible through appropriate resources, restorative practices, and community care. Data collected from bias reports will be used to develop and inform educational programs and services designed to interrupt problematic behaviors that can undermine a student’s sense of belonging at the College. 

BEST Membership:

  • Isaiah Thomas (chair), Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Education, Housing Services, and Student Conduct
  • Robin Maxile, Interim Director of the Intercultural Community Center
  • Jenny Heetderks, Director of Counseling Services, Emmons Wellness Center
  • Shanda Ness, Director of Athletics
  • Kim Lundy, Assistant Director of Campus Safety
  • Caro Brighouse, Associate Dean of Student Academic Affairs
  • Joaquin Caro, Prevention Education Coordinator, Project SAFE
  • Josè Cisneros, JEID Education Specialist