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Online diversity class now required

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Layla Abbas
Editor in Chief

The University’s new mandatory diversity and cultural competence training for all full time faculty took effect this summer, with a completion deadline of Oct. 1.

This training, which is a first-time requirement and response to the incidents that occurred last spring, is the first step toward an inclusive and diverse campus, Provost Jonathan Reed said.

The incidents last semester including a racist threat on social media directed at a specific group of students, followed by arson in a student’s car, began the discussion of where our University currently stands in terms of diversity, inclusion and equity, and where we are headed.

Kim Dieu, assistant professor of school psychology, said after completing the online training, she felt it was thorough and practical.

“Online diversity training was not offered here when I started in 2018, so we have to start somewhere,” Dieu said. “Some faculty may not like how long it is, but when they go through it they will realize this is powerful and important material.”

While the training is not currently required of adjunct faculty who teach roughly 50% of classes here, Mia Basic, associate vice president and chief human resources officer, said they will have a process in place early next year.

“We want to include (adjuncts) in this process, and will provide compensation for their time spent on the training.”

The training was selected by Beatriz Gonzalez, former chief diversity officer, and the human resources office.

“In order to move forward, it is important to create a culture of diversity, equity and inclusivity that is embedded in our culture,” Basic said. “It ties to our hiring process, our promotional process, student life, and teaching and classroom experience.”

Reed said requiring diversity training for all employees signals the top priorities of diversity, equity and inclusion to the University’s core values, but only serves as a first step.

“This training serves as one aspect of a broader mission,” Reed said. “We need to make sure we are having other opportunities to ensure cultural competence by faculty and staff in and outside the classroom.”

The online training, which takes roughly two hours to complete, consists of videos on diversity as a whole, along with in depth look at microaggressions, power and privilege.

Dieu said she appreciated the entirety of the training, but specifically enjoyed the way the training defined power and privilege.

“Sometimes when the concepts of power and privilege are discussed, people can get very defensive,” Dieu said. “The concepts are explained as unearned benefits, and opportunities that happen to be upon you because of previous generational experiences.”

Dieu said nothing is perfect, but the efforts led by the University to start somewhere is important.

“We have to make a lived commitment to be reflective and empathetic,” Dieu said. “Something we can tell students is that as faculty, we will continue to work to make spaces that are conducive to their quality of life and learning experiences.”

Dieu also volunteered time this summer at workshops and conferences, along with 70 faculty, focusing on cultural competence in the curriculum as well as in the classroom.

Daryl Smith, a nationally known scholar on diversity in higher education, facilitated on-campus sessions to help almost 20 of those faculty embed diversity into their course syllabi.

“The workshops were again relevant and important, especially for our community here,” Dieu said. “If we are really about diversity and inclusivity, then it is important for us to stay on top of things and continue to learn how to engage, and implement the best practices in the classroom.”

A 2017 study titled “Testing the Effectiveness of an Online Diversity Course for Faculty and Staff,” by the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education surveyed a pretest-posttest design to examine the effectiveness of a four-week instructor-led web-based course facilitated on Blackboard Learning Management System.

Effectiveness was defined as increasing participants’ cultural competence in terms of cognitive, affective, and behavioral learning related to building a more inclusive campus environment, according to the study.

Participants developed a greater understanding of the value of diversity, an increased openness to learning about other cultures, and a greater awareness of their social privileges.

Increasing one’s cultural competence requires on-going effort and continued engagement with learning, according to the study’s authors.

Diversity training will only have an impact on the organizational environment to the extent to which participants transfer and apply what they learned to their work contexts.

Al Clark, professor of humanities, said he felt the training was well written and the most sophisticated training compared to former years’ trainings.

“The training was grounded in the assumption that we all try our best and want to learn how to behave more appropriately,” Clark said in an email interview. “It worked on our strengths to help us improve, and backed all of its lessons solidly on federal and state law and appropriate court decisions.”

Clark said it was unfortunate that they were not provided with printed summary charts that could be referred to at a later time, but nonetheless found the training useful.

Juan Regalado, dean of students, said after completing the course he felt it served as a valuable learning experience.

“The course provided a common language and concepts that are often brought up in discussions about inclusivity and equity,” Regalado said. “It is a starting point for continued dialogue as well as reflection, education and greater understanding of self and others,” Regalado said.

Layla Abbas can be reached at layla.abbas@laverne.edu.

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