In a day when top radio show hosts hurl sexist and racist remarks at women college athletes and White college students don Afro wigs and gold teeth at parties, it is clear that many are in need of diversity training. So it’s a shame when such exercises actually cause more harm than good.
That is the subject of our cover story in this edition. Diverse correspondent Jamal Watson talks to diversity training experts about what college officials should look for when interviewing prospective facilitators. The diversity consultants interviewed also recommend some steps colleges and universities should take before hiring trainers or even embarking on requiring campus workshops for students and/or staff.
Anybody who has participated in a diversity workshop or sat in a class where hot-button issues such as race or sexual orientation were raised knows that discussing these sensitive issues can result in angry outbursts or hurt feelings. Therefore, the facilitators must be thoroughly trained in how to handle such situations. And no disrespect to our young people, but using students to lead such discussions and workshops may not be sufficient.
Of diversity training, Dr. Marie Amey-Taylor, director of learning and development within the human resources department at Temple University and a diversity trainer for more than 30 years, says: “This is not customer service work. My feeling is that this is one of those topical areas that require a high level of skill.”
Colleges and universities clearly have good intentions when they require diversity training, but, like most things, for it to be effective, much planning and preparation needs to occur. Because if done well, these exercises can be beneficial, eye-opening and, perhaps, even life-altering for students, faculty and staff. Read more in “When Diversity Training Goes Awry.”
Diverse contributing editor Lydia Lum nicknamed the next article “the little school that could.” We titled it “Encouraging the Discouraged.” Lydia profiles Heritage University, a small, private school in Washington state, which serves a region that truly benefits from its presence. The Hispanic-serving institution located in a rural part of the state is home to significant Hispanic and American Indian populations. Before entering Heritage, most of its students were not on the college track in high school and therefore were not considered “college material.” Says Heritage business professor Len Black: “Very few of my students have even heard of the SAT, much less taken it. So very early in their lives, judgments are made about their future.” And even though the university’s graduation rate leaves room for improvement, professors acknowledge the transforming nature of an education. History professor Ryan Booth says it best: “The kid who walks in here is different than the kid in the graduation line.”
Lastly, in light of the recent MLA conference, we offer a light-hearted commentary on the job-hunting process for teaching positions. The writer, who preferred to write her piece anonymously since she is currently interviewing, chronicles her preparation and recent trip to the MLA’s annual conference. Despite the fear and anxiety associated with it, “The MLA really is a big family reunion,” says the writer.
Hilary Hurd Anyaso
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