Diversity education in universities: Follow-up to mandatory virtual training

Bias training and the need for an all-inclusive institution has led to universities implementing diversity education. They have also implemented systems to prevent hate crimes against minority groups.

Jordan West has celebrated her first year as the director for diversity and inclusion at George Washington University (GWU). The department is part of the university’s goal of implementing policies that are not biased towards minorities. It is also meant to combat hate crimes in the university and prevent implicit bias while interacting around campus.

School administrators have seen the particular importance for the school culture (and the classroom culture) to reflect, acknowledge, and celebrate diversity. One report highlights the fact that diversity of the school makes minorities more secure, particularly:

Students can find security in knowing that there is someone at their school or on their campus that has their best interest at heart.

How diversity education is being implemented

West said that the department had taken several steps such as weekly bias training to help student leaders and professors to refine how inclusion should work and integrating the studies in the syllabi. She also said that this education has led to conversations that were previously difficult to talk about.

She continued by saying,

I also recognize that the role has been one where people know that there’s somebody championing this work on a day-to-day basis, so I’m sitting here thinking about who’s in the room, who’s not in the room, what are the conversations and how to navigate the conversations.

The impact the department had had on the student leadership according to West. Through seminars, workshops and the weekly training, she has bridged the gap between the administration, minority students and other students. New relationships have been born, new collaborations are happening daily and more students are enrolling in the program. She is quoted as saying,

I find it rewarding, of course, to get those moments where somebody says ‘thank you’, but it’s because they appreciate the work that our team does as a whole.

What does diversity education indicate?

Because the idea of “diversity” is not even that straightforward. schools must not only recognize diversity evident among broad racial and ethnic groups (e.g., Asian or Hispanic), but the diversity within these groups must be recognized as well. For example, Chinese and Japanese students may share common cultural characteristics as a result of being Asian, but will also have distinctly Chinese and Japanese cultural characteristics that differ from each other.

Diversity education is more than tolerance of differences. It’s understanding that the needs of different cultures are common and understanding can help them blend and survive in an alienating environment. Diversity education is a very crucial process, in particular:

One reason for seeking out and acknowledging cultural differences among students is the idea that learning involves transfer of information from prior knowledge and experiences. To assist in this transfer process, it is important to acknowledge the students’ background and to validate and incorporate their previous knowledge into the process of acquiring new information.

The university has also implemented other systems to prevent bias such as the mandatory virtual training that was launched in February. They also launched an anonymous reporting line to be used in case of such cases. West has indicated that the university is committed to addressing all students’ issues and ensure their rights are protected.

Diversity education could hopefully help teachers recognize that every group of students will respond differently to curriculum and teachers must constantly adjust to be sure their methods are diverse, both in theory and in practice.