Diversity Training, Bias Reporting among Progress Made This Summer

The changes are driven by community suggestions after students raised concerns about racism and bias on campus.

GW Gate
August 27, 2018

The George Washington University hired a diversity and inclusion training director, is implementing mandatory diversity training and will soon launch a website for reporting incidents of bias—changes outlined in a response plan after students voiced concerns about racism and bias on campus.

Released in April, the plan included nine goals to guide specific actions the university would take to improve the racial climate on campus. Many students, faculty and staff came together for meetings and discussions to provide suggestions for the plan.

“GW is committed to creating an inclusive campus climate for all students, faculty and staff,” said Caroline Laguerre-Brown, vice provost for diversity, equity and community engagement. “We remain focused on fulfilling the promises we made in our plan and finding additional opportunities that help create an environment where everyone feels welcome and valued.”

Among the updates since the release of plan:

  • As part of Colonial Inauguration, new students participated in conversations aimed at understanding what it means to be a part of a diverse community and GW’s community values and expectations. During the fall semester, the university also will roll out a mandatory online diversity training program for first-year students, and it will be expanded to include upper-class students during the academic year. Online training will begin in the coming weeks followed by a pilot phase of in-person sessions. The students and staff who designed the program will use feedback to continue to improve the program for the 2019-20 academic year.
  • The Posse Foundation provided diversity training to Colonial Inauguration leaders and Residential Life student leaders. The full-day training provided student leaders with an opportunity to learn how to engage in and facilitate conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion. Residence hall staff will have these conversations during their hall meetings in the first weeks of the fall semester.
  • A Bias Incident Response Team site is nearly complete and will be launched in the coming weeks. It will be prominently featured on the Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement website. The site will allow any university community member to report, including anonymously, verbal harassment or other forms of unwelcome conduct motivated by hatred based on race, color, religion, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin or any other factor.
  • The university hired a director for diversity and inclusion education. Jordan West, who began this month, is a formally trained social justice educator and has been part of national opportunities to facilitate discussions on diversity, inclusion and equity. Ms. West is responsible for developing a more systemic and institutionalized approach to training and workshops addressing diversity, cultural competence, intercultural communications, anti-racism, unconscious bias, equity and other topics.
  • Ms. Laguerre-Brown began conducting diversity training at new faculty and new academic leader orientation. Additional training opportunities for staff are in development.
  • The university hired as its inaugural dean of the student experience Cissy Petty. Dr. Petty has demonstrated experience in, and a passion for, improving campus diversity and inclusion.
  • Staff and university leadership have begun discussions to update the Code of Student Conduct to address non-sex based harassment and discrimination. Once approved, these updates will be broadly communicated to ensure all students are aware of the updates.
  • Staff also completed final revisions to the University Policy on Equal Opportunity, which will include definitions and procedures to address forms of harassment beyond sexual harassment. The revised policy will be posted when approved.
  • Students from Greek organizations continue to work on a training plan for diversity and inclusion for fall 2018 with support from staff in the Multicultural Student Services Center and the Center for Student Engagement. Programs developed will include topics such as unconscious bias.

These updates relate specifically to the concerns the university heard this past spring and are not a comprehensive summary of all of the university’s efforts to support diversity and inclusion on campus, Ms. Laguerre-Brown said.

GW’s various schools and colleges, for example, develop and implement their own diversity plans. And within the university’s various strategic initiatives, teams also are working on complementary programming, initiatives and other community-building efforts.

Ms. Laguerre-Brown added that students, faculty and staff would continue to receive updates on the university’s progress on these and other items. But she also encouraged members of the community to provide feedback and be directly involved in making the changes that they believe are important.

 “I am proud of the progress our community has made in a relatively short amount of time,” Ms. Laguerre-Brown said. “But we still have much more work to do, and I look forward to working with anyone who shares our goal of making GW a warm and welcoming place for all.”

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Among updates, officials outline approach to new student and faculty diversity training, bias reporting system, hire of diversity and inclusion training director.