Bias Education & Support Team (BEST)
Our BEST Commitment
The University of Arizona is committed to fostering a safe and inclusive environment for all members of our Wildcat community. We understand that members of our community may experience bias that makes them feel unsafe or unwelcome. When this happens, our institutional values call us to respond with integrity and compassion.
The University of Arizona is also committed to the freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution. While we may not always agree with the ideas and opinions of others, we must honor their right to express them.
The purpose of this team is to help support and educate the campus community on how bias related actions may affect others.
Questions about BEST? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
What BEST Does
- Provide care and support to impacted individuals.
- Offer optional opportunities to engage in activities and dialogue that promote education, understanding, and healing.
- Based on the information provided in the BEST report, if there is a reasonable basis to suspect that potential discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in violation of the university’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-harassment Policy has occurred, the information will be sent to the appropriate UA office. These offices have procedures to provide due process and address free speech concerns.
- Track while maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of involved parties, data that is tracked will be used to support campus safety and keep an inclusive educational environment.
What BEST Does Not Do
- Restrict free speech or impede academic freedom
- Conduct investigations
- Issue disciplinary sanctions
- Require members of our campus community to participate in any BEST activity (phone call, meeting, etc.)
Who serves on BEST
Core Team: A team of campus professionals with relevant subject matter expertise. Members of the Core Team receive specialized training on First Amendment protections, Student Code of Conduct, harassment and discrimination, Title IX and other relevant topics.
- Veda Kowalski, Ph.D., Dean of Students Office
- Beverly Perez-Mercado, Human Resources
- Judy Marquez Kiyama, Faculty Development, Office of the Provost
- Whitney Mohr, Office of Institutional Equity
- Nina Pereira, Housing & Residential Life
- Jane Pizzolato, Initiatives for Organizational Inclusion
Additional Campus Resources
Processes and resources available to students, staff and faculty at the University of Arizona
- Bias Education and Support Team (BEST)
- Diversity & Inclusion
- Faculty Affairs
- Office of Instruction & Assessment
Frequently Asked Questions
After submitting a report to BEST, a member of our team will reach out to you to learn more about your unique experiences and needs.
Next, BEST convenes as a full committee once per week and reviews each report as a full team. After reviewing a report, BEST will devise a plan of action to provide support to the individual(s) who experienced bias and to provide education to the individual(s) who expressed bias, as appropriate. Opportunities for both parties to engage with one another are optional and will always be facilitated by a professional staff member.
While BEST is equipped to provide education and support, conducting investigations and issuing disciplinary sanctions is outside the scope of BEST. Therefore, if BEST receives a report that warrants an investigation due to a suspected policy violation, the report will be referred to the office most appropriate to conduct the investigation. These partners include the Dean of Students Office, the Office of Institutional Equity, and Human Resources.
In addition to providing education and support, BEST is also committed to tracking bias reporting trends over time. De-identified trend data will be used to inform campus leadership of ways the campus climate can be proactively improved.
Yes, you are able to submit a report anonymously which will help BEST understand real-time issues and current trends in our campus climate. Data on current trends will be used to develop initiatives aimed at improving our campus climate. However, the submission of an anonymous report may limit BEST’s ability to respond to an incident directly and prevent us from offering support and education to impacted parties.
BEST is committed to providing support and education and believes that everyone has the capacity to learn and grow. Should a report be submitted about you, our goal is to connect you with appropriate resources, information, and skills to more effectively promote inclusion in your sphere of influence. In addition to resources that promote education, BEST may also provide opportunities for students to engage with one another in a way that promotes understanding and healing. Opportunities for both parties to engage with one another are optional and will always be facilitated by a professional staff member.
In the case of a faculty or staff member expressing bias towards a student, BEST may also engage with the appropriate supervisor, department head, or director who can support our efforts to connect the employee with appropriate resources.
The University’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-harassment Policy prohibits retaliation by stating:
"Retaliation" occurs when an adverse action is taken against an individual for engaging in protected activity. Protected activity consists of (a) opposing conduct reasonably believed to constitute discrimination, including harassment, which violates a nondiscrimination statute or which University policy prohibits; (b) filing a complaint about such practice; or (c) testifying, assisting, or participating in any manner in an investigation or other proceeding related to a discrimination complaint. Adverse actions that are reasonably likely to deter a complaining individual or others from engaging in protected activity are prohibited.
BEST’s role is not to restrict free speech or impede on academic freedom. Instead, it is to support members of our community who have been impacted by bias-related incidents and to provide education to those who may have expressed bias.
For more information on how the University protects free speech, please visit our First Amendment website.