This glossary includes terminology commonly used in reference to bias and bias incidents. It is not meant to be exhaustive. OIED recognizes that language is complex and the definitions of many of these terms will continue to evolve.

Bias – favoring of or against one person, group or thing compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. Biases can be conscious or unconscious – explicit or implicit. In addition, bias can be institutionalized into policies, practices and structures.

Bias incident – any hurtful, discriminatory or harassing act that targets individuals or groups based on perceived or actual identity. To be considered a bias incident, the act is not required to be a crime under any federal, state or local statutes, nor does it have to violate university policy.

Creed – a set of beliefs or aims which guide someone's actions.

Discrimination – is defined by federal and/or state statutes to include unfavorable or unfair treatment of a person or class of persons with membership in a protected class.

Ethnicity – the culture of people in a given geographic region, including their language, heritage, religion and customs.

Gender – a social combination of identity, expression, and social elements related to masculinity and femininity. Includes gender identity (self-identification), gender expression (self-expression), social gender (social expectations), gender roles (socialized actions), and gender attribution (social perception).

Gender expression – how one chooses to express one’s gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice, body characteristics, etc. Gender expression may change over time and from day to day, and may or may not conform to an individual’s gender identity.

Gender identity – an individual’s internal sense of being male, female, both, neither, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.

Harassment – unwelcome conduct because of membership in a protected class and is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it interferes with an employee’s ability to perform their job or denies or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s programs. 

Implicit/unconscious bias – a stereotype or bias that occurs outside of conscious awareness and control and is often at odds with one’s conscious values.

Microaggressions – brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities that tend to be subtle, often unintentional, and indirect. Microaggressions often occur in situations where there are alternative explanations and are more likely to occur when people pretend not to notice differences, thereby denying that race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, or any other aspect of identity had anything to do with their actions.

National origin – a place from which a person and/or their ancestors originate from.

Protected class – a group of people who share common characteristics and are protected from discrimination and harassment under federal and state laws and/or university policy. Protected classes include race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Race – refers to the concept of dividing people into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of physical characteristics that result from genetic ancestry. Sociologists use the concept of race to describe how people think of and treat groups of people, as people very commonly classify each other according to race (e.g., as African-American or as Asian).

Retaliation – adverse action taken against a person who engages in a protected activity, which consists of: seeking information about or complaining in good faith about potential violations of University policies; participating in an investigation being conducted in response to allegations of violations of University policies; or filing a complaint with or participating in an investigation being conducted in response to a complaint filed with federal, state, or local authorities charged with enforcing specific statutes.

Sex – separate from gender, this term refers to the cluster of biological, chromosomal and anatomical features associated with maleness and femaleness in the human body. Sex is often used synonymously with gender in this culture. Although the two terms are related, they should be defined separately to differentiate the biological (“sex”) from the sociocultural (“gender”).

Sexual orientation – an individual’s physical and/or emotional attraction to and desire to sexually or emotionally partner with specific genders and/or sexes. e.g., homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual.

Socioeconomic status (SES) – the social standing or class of an individual or group. It is often measured as a combination of education, income and occupation.


This glossary was compiled from existing resources provided by the National Conference for Community and Justice, Oregon State University, Arizona State University, Intergroup Relations Center, Gender Roles: A Sociological Perspective, 5/e by Linda Lindsey. Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 2011, The National Center for Transgender Equality,, University of Michigan, Indiana University, Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (Ed by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, Pat Griffin), Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Washington University St. Louis, the LGBTQ Center at Brown University, and the Title IX and Gender Equity Office at Brown University.