Online diversity training module does not appropriately address problem

The University released a new, mandatory online training module for the Class of 2022 and all future classes last month. The training, provided by the same company that creates GW’s AlcoholEdu training, Everfi, must be completed by all first-year students before they register for fall semester classes.

As a first-year student, I applaud the training as a step in the right direction, but the program falls flat in a number of areas. The module is not related to GW, is too brief and focuses on how minorities should respond to instances of bigotry rather than trying to prevent bigoted incidents from happening in the first place.

The brevity of the training is a minor, yet considerable flaw. The training takes about 30 minutes to complete and is extremely “click-through-able” as it does not require users to have the sound on or the tab open when watching videos. Students simply need to play the videos and audio in the background which means that they can complete the training without ever hearing a word about diversity and inclusion. If students have the option to complete the training without actually consuming the training materials, the program is pointless. It is simply a waste of student time and University money. The University could remedy this problem by requiring students to pass a brief test at the end to complete the training, which would ensure that students are required to pay at least some attention to the vital training.

But in addition to the lack of personalization in the program, the message of the entire module is wrong. The module focuses far too much on how to respond to instances of discrimination or racism and far too little on how to recognize bigoted ideas and behavior and stop them from growing into instances of outright discrimination or violence. The module is more about teaching minorities how to treat their oppressors than it is about how to end oppression.

At several stages in the module, the training information suggests that a person is wrong to respond angrily to instances of discrimination because anger stifles conversation and learning. But those who are being discriminated against have a right to be mad when they face discrimination. They certainly have no obligation to defend their humanity to those that discriminate and belittle them as the training would suggest they do.

The onus of creating diverse and inclusive spaces should not be placed on minorities, it should be placed on those with the power and privilege to change institutions and systems that perpetuate racist or otherwise bigoted beliefs. The American Psychological Association recommends that people reach out to their support systems and focus on their strengths after experiencing discrimination, not try to educate those that are discriminating against them.

At the end of the day, the University did not create training featuring actual experiences from our own students, but the University could have used this opportunity to cater the training to issues administrators have seen firsthand on campus like racism on social media, in Greek life and across socioeconomic lines. The training would have been far more engaging and impactful had the University taken the time to feature our own students and stories with their permission.

The module is a good step on a long journey to address racism on college campuses. But the new module is a Band-Aid on a deep wound. It addresses the concerns of students but does not actually address the issue of discrimination on campus, in part because of its lack of subject matter related to GW. While this training does accompany other diversity training, it is clear that the current online program does little to actually teach students to be more inclusive of their fellow students.

Jack Murphy, a freshman majoring in philosophy, is a Hatchet columnist.

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