Equality and Diversity Training for Undergrads?

A reader has written to ask about instituting Equality and Diversity training across a university for undergrads. I think the focus at her university is on implicit bias related issues, but obviously things like bystander training could be incorporated. Does anyone know of ways that this has been done well and successfully? I know that sometimes this sort of effort can backfire, so would appreciate the cautions as well as the more positive suggestions.

4 thoughts on “Equality and Diversity Training for Undergrads?

  1. Our approach at the University of Louisville has been to develop student leaders who are trained to lead diversity workshops and discussions. The Inclusion and Equity Internship program is run out of the Arts and Sciences’ Office for International, Diversity, and Outreach Programs, and about 8-15 students are recruited each year to participate in the year-long program (though most stay on for several years). They go through a series of trainings that involve personal work, learning about structural oppression and privilege, and facilitation training. They have facilitated discussions in classrooms here on campus, for various groups on campus (e.g. the A&S Diversity Council), for faculty at another local college, for local public and private schools –for both teachers and students, and for local non-profits. (They are kept quite busy just by word of mouth.) We find that having well-trained and knowledgeable students lead such discussions is very effective–even with faculty. You can contact me directly for more information at david.owen@louisville.edu or check out their website here: http://louisville.edu/artsandsciences/idop/diversity-programs/student-programs/inclusion-and-equity-interns


  2. I’m not sure what’s being envisaged with “across the university”, but I can share a few remarks about a program for all faculty. The State of Texas has mandated a series of training programs for all state employees, which includes faculty in state universities.

    Programs that simply have one come up with correct answers to questions on a computer are relatively easy to set up. However, acquiring new behaviors – new skill sets – is a very different matter. This hands-on training can get to be extremely expensive both in time and money. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that providing people with material to answer questions changes much. The news that one can’t make students social security numbers public may change some behavior, but a lot won’t change.

    Why not?

    Three reasons:

    1. Teaching new skills requires more, as I pointed out.

    2. Those taking the test may have traded answers with others, so in fact little of the training material or the test is actually read.

    3. Most people hate taking the tests, and so compliance would be low if the university didn’t impose penalties for not taking them.

    Faculty of course may be different in lots of ways, but it is also the case that faculty participation in things like polls is typically very low. The same may apply to students. I forgotten the exact numbers, but I think one should not be surprised to find that no more than 10-15% of faculty willingly respond to polls, unless they are already pretty agitated about the issues. I’d expect a similar turn out for things to do with diversity training, climate training, etc.

    I’ve had some occasion in my past faculty governance roles to get people out to something. It helps enormously to provide food. You may need to go around knocking on doors, etc.

    A better tactic might be to try to get departments to nominate some undergrads as something like “diversity scholars” or “climate scholars”. These people might then be trained to become role models. The problem here is still cost, though. Despite what we might think, a lot of knowledge is required to teach people such skills; we don’t become able to do it by thinking hard about it. (I mention this since it seems to me that philosophical training inspires a lot of people to believe that common sense and hard thinking can solve all sort of personnel problems.)

    I initially wrote this as David O was commenting. I’ve just seen his comment, but I think the program he describes might well be the sort of thing I mention at the end.

  3. I agree with Anne J.’s take on this. An effective program requires a serious commitment of resources–in both time and money. At UofL we have a full time staff person who spends a good 80% of her time coordinating the program, and although the interns are unpaid, there are associated costs that add up quickly.

  4. Being well prepared to effectively handle any project, situation or encounter is something that many young people entering the workforce lack. It is also something that will come with time and experience, but those graduates could also be exceedingly well-versed then they currently are. Diversity training and education is something that all, not limiting to young adults, need to undergo for the betterment of the company, society and community.

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