Differentiating Hate Crime and Hate Speech at the U


Chronicle archives.

By Joseph A. Moss

At the University of Utah, there are multiple departments in place to prevent and address hate crimes and hate speech —  the  University Department of Public Safety, the Office for Inclusive Excellence and the Office of the Dean of Students. In the last four years, there have been a total of eight hate crimes reported in the U’s Clery Report. This does not include incidents that go unreported along and hate speech around campus.

What defines a hate crime or what exactly is hate speech? According to the U’s Clery report, a hate crime is defined as “a criminal offense that manifests evidence that the victim was intentionally selected because of the perpetrator’s bias against the victim … the crime is motivated by the victim’s race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, national origin or disability.”

If the language involves a slur or is targeted with the intent to offend, but is not done along with a “criminal offense,” it is labeled as “hate speech.” The U, however, has labeled these as “bias/hate incidents” which are defined as “speech, conduct, or some other form of expression or action that is motivated wholly or in part by prejudice or bias.”

“There have been mixed messages between a hate crime and hate speech,” said Dr. Tawanda Owens, Executive Director for Diverse Student Advocacy. “Sometimes, people will see hate speech and say that it’s a crime.” This is why it is important to be clear between hate crimes and hate speech, so that each are reported in the correct ways.

Hate crimes should be reported either directly to the University Police Department or University Department of Public Safety. Again, these are actions that can be criminalized in any way, but are motivated by personal identifications. This ensures that victims of these crimes can get the resources they need following whatever crimes have occurred.

Hate speech is a different story. Since the U can’t define what constitutes a crime, hate speech does not fall under the same legal definitions of hate crimes. This doesn’t mean, however, that it can’t be reported anywhere. 

“In cases of hate speech, those can be reported to the Office for Inclusive Excellence,” Owens said. This would, in turn, start a process at the OIE to reach out to all parties in order to help those that “identify as diverse.” Students can also contact the Office of the Dean of Students.

“Mediation, talks between both parties, or just understanding of a misunderstanding,” Owens said, are all methods of reaching out. “Which may be the Dean of Students might come into place to either mitigate those actions from happening again or just trying to figure how it may have happened to see if any punishments need to take place.”

Although the OIE was not available for a direct comment on the process of resolving hate speech on campus, that doesn’t mean they are the only resource if someone finds themselves in need in those situations. Other than counselors and advisors, students can also just look to the peers around them in their classes.

“I witnessed some pretty heavy microaggressions and vitriol once,” said Keyon Hejazi-Far, a junior majoring in writing and rhetoric studies. “The discussion was regarding the whitewashing of literature and lack of representation in the literary canon. A student said something along the lines of, ‘maybe most renowned authors were white because they were genuinely better writers.’ In the context of this student’s other remarks throughout the semester this was clearly spiteful. A few of us chimed in with retorts.” Often, students use these unofficial networks to combat speech they consider hateful.


[email protected]



This article has been clarified to clarify the U’s role in defining hate speech. An earlier version suggested that the U could decide whether hate speech was a crime.