University plans to mandate diversity training

by Chloe Sorvino

The University’s multicultural office is planning a mandatory diversity training program for members of all student organizations.

Michael Tapscott, leader of the Multicultural Student Services Center for the last nine years, said his office is planning workshops to help thousands of students from different backgrounds understand and bridge their differences through interactive exercises and video-based online modules.

The office already offers training on various types of diversity – ranging from differences in race, sexuality, socioeconomic status, religion and political beliefs – and hosts workshops upon request. It could take until June to figure out logistics for the new program, he said.

“We want to nudge students to the maximum level [of diversity awareness], and then nudge them further,” Tapscott said. “We’re all on a journey for understanding each other. It can’t be about the past. It has to be about the future. Everybody faces the same concerns.”

House staff already go through diversity training, along with supervisory staff and faculty, who learn strategies for motivating and communicating with diverse work teams.

The workshop format would resemble the University’s Responsible Alcohol Management trainings that members of student organizations and Greek chapters are required to attend before serving alcohol at events.

The idea is part of an effort to redefine the MSSC – which has focused heavily on programming for more than a decade – following recommendations by the two-year-old Council on Diversity and Inclusion, Tapscott said. The council also called for the center to play a bigger role in admissions and hiring.

He said the planning process for finalizing the office's new purpose “still needs a lot of research.”

“It’s a great time to look at some things we could consider,” Tapscott said, adding that programming will still be a priority for the office, which hosts events like the annual Welcome Week Block Party.

Tapscott and Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Reed both said it was too early to offer a timeline for the new initiatives.

Redefining the MSSC will be one of Reed’s first major moves since she joined GW last year, in addition to a program to fund campus grants for diversity-related efforts. She began overseeing the MSSC last spring.

“I could see some way in which there are conversations about the MSSC – how it is a resource for academic advisers, how it is a resource for admissions, how it is a resource for hiring committees,” Reed said. “It can’t do everything, but the group may decide to give it a primary and secondary mission.”

About 40 percent of the University’s students last fall identified themselves as multicultural, according to the most recent data available from the Office of Institutional Research.

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