Skip to Main Content

What is the definition of a "hate crime" versus a "bias-related incident"?

The answer to this question is complex.

Bias is a preformed negative opinion or attitude toward a group of people based on race, religion, ethnic/national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.

The existence of bias is not enough to rise to the level of a crime, however. Rather, a hate crime is a criminal offense that must have been motivated, in whole or part, by an offender's bias against race, religion ethnic/national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.

Miami Police provide crime data to two national reports that list crime statistics, including hate crime statistics. For a crime to be classified as a "hate crime" it must meet criteria outlined in the definitions, which vary depending upon the federal agency collecting the information.

The definition most widely used by law enforcement agencies is from a U.S. Department of Justice publication, Hate Crimes Data Collection Guidelines. These guidelines define a hate/bias crime as: "Any criminal offense committed against a person or property which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic/national origin groups or sexual-orientation group."

Remember that even if an incident doesn't meet the above definition, it is still harmful to the standards of community that Miami strives to uphold.

The two national crime reports to which Miami provides information include:

  • The Uniform Crime Report: Hate Crime Statistics, published by the U.S. Department of Justice's Federal Bureau of Investigation, lists statistics for colleges and universities, cities rural and suburban counties as well as state law enforcement agencies.
  • The Annual Security Report is produced by colleges and universities under federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requirements.

Though there is no specific statute that is titled "Hate Crime" under Ohio law, there is a penalty-enhancement statute, Ethnic Intimidation § 2927.12. This law addresses certain crimes, (aggravated menacing, menacing, criminal damaging or mischief, and telecommunications harassment) where the victim is targeted because of race, color, religion, or national origin.

Statistical publications like the FBI's Hate Crime Statistics and the University's Campus Security Act Report are designed to be factual presentations of data. Their purpose is not to evoke emotion or sway opinion. The neat columns and rows of numbers cannot convey the suffering experienced by victims of crime. Nor can statistics depict the turmoil that a hateful act can bring to a community.

Still, Miami believes it is important to make it easy for students, faculty and staff to have access to such information and thus it posts its Annual Security Report. For more information, see the Annual Report of Campus Safety and Security Policies.

Even if the incident does not rise to a violation of the law, cases of harassment, verbal slurs, etc., can lead to more serious hate-motivated violence when the community fails to responds. Silence is acceptance. These behaviors tear at the fabric of the community.

What can I do if I believe I'm the victim of a hate crime or any bias-related incident based on my race, religion, disability, ethnic/national origin, gender, or sexual orientation that makes me afraid for my safety?

You should do the following:

  • Report incidents immediately to Miami Police by calling 513-529-2222 (or 911 in an emergency).
  • Preserve any evidence (graffiti, phone call recording, e-mail message, letter, etc.).
  • Tell someone. Miami encourages the reporting of all such situations, preferably to the police. But tell someone who can help you find the available university resources.
  • If you are not comfortable reporting the incident to the Miami Police, report the incident to a campus security authority or submit a Bias Incident Report.

What will Miami University do in such cases?

Miami can make changes in the hate crime victim’s living conditions if the victim wishes. In addition, Miami Police promise to do the following:

  • Meet with you promptly
  • Treat you and your concern with respect and sensitivity
  • Take every case seriously
  • Discuss your options
  • Gather and preserve evidence
  • Investigate all cases where a crime has occurred and arrest all perpetrators where sufficient legal grounds exist

Many hate crimes are anonymous and acquiring enough evidence to make an arrest is challenging. Other hateful incidents (slurs, etc) are hurtful, but may be protected under First Amendment rights. That doesn’t mean you should ignore such incidents. If you are unsure what to do, contact Miami University Police or a campus security authority.

What is the most frequently reported form of bias-related incidents on college campuses?

While physical attacks and vandalism are rare on college campuses across the nation, demeaning jokes or harassing or threatening phone calls or e-mails are not uncommon.

Each year, students, faculty, and staff report incidents of telephone or electronic harassment to the Miami University Police. For the most part, the callers select female victims for their targets, using sexually explicit and sometimes violent language in their messages. Members of our gay and lesbian community are also targets of threatening and offensive telecommunications harassment. In many cases, investigators have been successful in identifying and prosecuting these offenders.

What options exist for victims of bias-related incidents?

In the aftermath of reporting an incident of bias, our priority is to offer existing resources to support impacted individuals. At Miami University, we are committed to advancing the institutional values of diversity, inclusion and respect. Invitations to engage in a conversation and dialogue are voluntary and in the spirit of education and reflection. Bias Reporting is not a disciplinary process.

  • Office of Equity and Equal Opportunity Complaint
    Hateful incidents that do not violate criminal law may violate Miami's Policy Prohibiting Harassment and Discrimination, Miami’s Code of Student Conduct, or federal or state civil law. Any student, faculty, or staff member who believes he or she is the victim of harassment or discrimination based on race, religion, disability, ethnic/national origin, gender, or sexual orientation, age, pregnancy, military status, or veterans status should report the behavior directly to the Office of Equity and Equal Opportunity. Call 513-529-7157 for more information.

    Individuals who violate Miami’s Policy Prohibiting Harassment or Discrimination may be referred for appropriate disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.
  • Residence Hall Action
    Residence hall staff members are trained to take threats or expressions of hostility seriously and to provide peer support for victims. Victims are counseled and urged to call Miami Police if they have not already done so. Corridor meetings are often convened to discuss a hate-motivated incident and to urge a hall to stand as a community against the attack. Guests at such corridor meetings often include community police and/or counseling staff. Hall residents may also receive letters from staff outlining the incident and discussing its implications for both victims and the perpetrators. Staff members work with Miami Police and Student Affairs to identify perpetrators. A student who has received a direct threat may choose to move to a "safe room.
  • Student Counseling Service
    Victims of hate crimes and/or hateful incidents often need assistance to work through the complex emotional and psychological consequences. Victims of such acts are not limited to the individuals who've personally undergone them. Others in the targeted group may experience the hate crime or hateful incident as a personal attack in a very real way, too. After talking with police or a campus security authority, all victims are encouraged to contact the Student Counseling Service (513-529-4634). On the regional campuses, victims may contact the Office of Diversity Affairs. Staff members are aware of and sensitive to the impact of hate crimes and/or hateful incidents. The Student Counseling Service offers caring support and help in working through difficult issues and will make referrals as needed.

What can I do to make a difference?

Recommended action steps are as follows:

  • Speak out when jokes or comments are made that are hateful or demean others because of race, religion, disability, ethnic/national origin, gender, or sexual orientation.
  • Ask yourself if you use derogatory, degrading, or offensive terms in describing others and if you avoid people who are different from yourself.
  • If you are the victim of a harassing or nuisance phone call, save the email message or voice mail message. Report the incident to police immediately.
  • Educate yourself on the psychology of hate. Statistics indicate that most hate callers are white males under the age of 22 with low self-esteem. The motivation is typically a feeling of disenfranchisement.
  • Wear or display the anti-hate logo.

Remember that hate crimes and incidents have many victims. One act can make whole groups feel intimidated, frightened, and isolated.

Where can I find FBI and university hate crime statistics?

Where can I find FBI and university hate crime statistics?
Types of Offenses Reported UCR
Hate Crime Statistics
Annual Security Report
Murder/Non-Negligent Manslaughter Yes Yes
Negligent Manslaughter    
Forcible Rape Yes Yes
Other Forcible and Non-Forcible Sex Offenses No Yes
Robbery Yes Yes
Aggravated or Simple Assault Yes Yes
Burglary Yes Yes
Motor Vehicle Theft Yes Yes
Arson Yes Yes
Larceny/Theft Yes Yes
Vandalism Yes Yes
Menacing Yes Yes
Other Hate Crime Involving Bodily Injury   Yes
Telecommunications Harassment Yes No
Bias Catagories
Bias Catagories UCR
Hate Crime Statistics
Annual Security Report
Race Yes Yes
Religion Yes Yes
Ethnic/National Origin Yes Yes
Sexual Orientation Yes Yes
Disability Yes Yes
Gender No Yes

How is the university community informed when a hate crime occurs?

The Institutional Response Team (IRT) has developed a set of guidelines for informing the campus community of a variety of crimes that pose a threat to personal safety—including assaults, burglaries, and rapes. Unsolved crimes that may pose an ongoing threat to the safety of the community trigger the issuance of a Safety Bulletin or Information Bulletin.

When the IRT determines that a crime meets these criteria, Miami Police will issue a Safety Bulletin for incidents on university grounds or Information Bulletin for incidents off campus, and widely circulate it through the community.

If the crime and/or bias-related incident does not pose an ongoing safety threat to the community at large or to a particular group of individuals and/or involve a suspect at large, an Information Bulletin may still be issued as a means of informing the community.

The IRT includes the dean of students, police chief, general counsel, director of university news and communications, and other staff and faculty members.

How does one distinguish a hate crime or bias-related incident from hate speech?

Every college hate speech code reviewed in the federal courts has been struck down as being in violation of the First Amendment. Important distinctions between "hate crimes" and "hate speech" have to be made.

Briefly, hateful expression does not necessarily constitute an unlawful "threat." Many court opinions have defined the word "threat," and they typically distinguish between provocative or boorish expression (typically protected by the First Amendment) and true threats, which may lawfully be punished. Additionally, courts have held that the perception of a threat must be "objective" (that is from the standpoint of a "reasonable person"), not the subjective impression of a complainant.

Most cases involving hateful language on campuses do not involve physical threats, but rather demeaning, hateful expression.

For example, in a 1993 case, a circuit court ruled that George Mason University’s decision to sanction a fraternity for sponsoring a racist and sexist "ugly woman contest" violated the First Amendment. The university clearly had an interest in maintaining an environment free of discrimination and racism, but the court said the university went too far in punishing expression because it is merely hateful.

Does that mean universities have no recourse in such a situation? Absolutely not. There are a variety of alternatives in such situations (see What options exist for victims of bias-related incidents?)