Implicit bias workshops bring information, concern to UO campus

On Oct. 31, the University of Oregon announced that it is holding Implicit Bias workshops for faculty on campus. They are aimed to address and solve issues of implicit bias in faculty and staff.

These workshops take place in October and November. They are coordinated by the Division of Equity and Inclusion. One workshop has occurred so far, with the next two following up on Nov. 6 and Nov. 13. They are facilitated by Associate Law Professor Erik Girvan.

There’s been discussion over the past couple of years as to whether or not the university was going to implement something like this program.

Implicit bias is defined as the “thoughts and feelings that occur outside of conscious awareness or control,” according to Project Implicit.

The workshops are meant to help faculty understand their personal biases and the snap judgements, stereotypes and wishful thinking resulting from them. One of the recommendations available at the workshops is blind grading, a practice that encourages equal assessment of assignments.

Some programs already do this, such as the law school, according to Girvan.

Provost Jayanth Banavar said that attending a workshop would be required for faculty serving on a search committee and that, if a staff member is unable to attend, they can complete the online version.

There is some question, however, as to whether these workshops will produce any tangible results.

“[This] is going to entirely depend on what people do with it,” Girvan said.

Some students are also concerned that it is too much of an effort to check off a box, rather than to seriously counteract the problem. Kristy Lu, the co-director of the Asian and Pacific American Student Union, said that a worry is the university doing programs and workshops such as this just for show.

“We [think] that it’s great that the university is taking that step in addressing implicit bias,” Lu said. “But we’re concerned over the fact that it’s just like a check box to be like, ‘oh, it’s done, we don’t have to worry about that anymore.’”

The fact that the facilitation is led by a white man is another aspect of concern.

“One of the things we were concerned about is that the kind of personal experiences that minorities, people of color [and] women… personally face aren’t going to be shared.” Lu said. “[He] researches stereotyping and psychology and all that, [so] he can sympathize but can’t empathize.”

Lu would be interested to see student experiences implemented. They are also curious to see if and how the university will track any progress made.

Both Girvan and Lu noted that the outcome of the workshops would rely fairly heavily on the individual.

“[Implicit bias] isn’t something you can really cure,” Lu said. “It’s something that needs to be constantly recognized and addressed in their day to day work. Doing one training, although it’s a good [introduction to] it, I see it as kind of problematic.”

Follow Kylie Storm on Twitter: @kmstorm99

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Kylie Storm

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