Thursday, April 29, 2004

Into the valley of nonmandatory diversity training marched the five hundred 

Another bombshell exploded in the mandatory discrimination fight yesterday afternoon as plaintiff Geoffrey Tabakin sent the campus an email titled "The 500 Club -- You May Belong". The 500 Club refers to this quote at the end of the St. Cloud Times article (these archive really badly, so link could be dead after today):
About 500 employees are not required to attend the training.
Many faculty are wondering who these five hundred are. They have bad memories, since Tabakin quotes from a memo that all faculty received from Provost Spitzer on January 13th of this year, in response to a faculty senate motion regarding the administration's "implementation of the Zmora settlement". I've edited this; I'll scan the document for electronic use later.
Diversity training programA number of ongoing initiatives have been developed and implemented in a draft of a written training plan. In response to the specific requirements of the settlement agreement, during the week of August 25, 2003, planned convocation activities offered a series of workshops, presentations, and training sessions that included components on anti-Semitism. Provost Spitzer and the Faculty Association notified faculty participants and members of the university community of these opportunities, and faculty and staff were again informed via signed letter from Anne Zemek de Dominguez (campus legal advisor who is serving temporarily within the affirmative action office --kb) of the expectation that each of us would attend at least one session. ... during convocation and faculty training week workshop facilitators were asked to send their "sign up" sheets to Dean John Burgeson so that he could keep a record of the number of attendees. At least 500 employees received training pursuant to this mandate.
So this says that 500 have been through it, and the newspaper says that 500 will not be required to attend next week. The same 500? How would we know? All faculty and administrators received letters from President Saigo to their home addresses informing them of their obligation to go. There has been no attempt to sort between the 500 and the "ingrates ... now to be taught a lesson", in Tabakin's words. There are roughly 775 faculty on the books, including adjuncts, and many more administrators.

His piece de resistance is reference to and availability made of Spitzer's affidavit in defense of Tabakin's filing for and extension of the court's jurisdiction in the case and the upcoming hearing on whether the settlement terms have indeed been met. This document, of which I have received a copy, is along with the January 13th memo, at the heart of the matter. In it the provost argues that mandatory diversity training in a university is different than it would be in the corporate world or a government office.

Mandatory training in a public, academic institution such as St. Cloud State University includes elements often not found when developing mandatory training in the corporate and private sectors. For example, training within the University context means developing a visible and consistent presence of diversity education that creates a dialogue in the University community at all levels, especially where diversity education impacts on curriculum, scholarship, and the mission of the University. This requires the participation of the entire University community, especially faculty who have the responsibility for advancing the academic and scholarly agendas of the university.
So while he says that it would be different, a part that would not be different would be the "mandatory" part. This is very different than what was said in a Meet and Confer on April 10th, 2003, between the Faculty Association and the administration -- including Spitzer -- about which I have already written.
FA: ...We had passed a motion to form this committee previously, but we modified this motion and took out the idea that it was mandated because we have concerns about mandated training. Bigoted people who do mandated training can end up worse.

AD: I agree with that approach.

FA: We initiated the motion to demonstrate faculty support for the kind of training needed, but we did not support the notion of it being mandated, we only supported need for training and that faculty have a role in designing and implementing the training.

AD: A real question is that mandatory training can become very counterproductive. I appreciate your modification. Did the court order leave any flexibility?

FA: The word �‘mandatory�’ is in the order.

AD: But there are ways to deal with that without violating the agreement.

AD: In terms of encouragement of people to come to training.
So even a year ago, they were looking for ways to dodge the mandatory diversity training requirement of an agreement they signed, and now they profess that they are shocked, SHOCKED!, to find out that they didn't meet the agreement. They say in M&C that mandatory is a problem, but in his affidavit Spitzer says that diversity training in a university "requires the participation of the entire University community, especially faculty who have the responsibility for advancing tacademicmic and scholarly agendas of the university." Which sounds an awful lot like what the university signed to do in the settlement, and does not sound like what has happened until next week.

There is discussion about why Tabakin has chosen to pursue this when he himself does not agree about mandatory training. The answer, I feel, was given by a StarTribune article about the settlement in December 2002 which is no longer available online but which I blogged at the time.

Geoffrey Tabakin, who teaches kindegarten education and courses in genocide studies and was involved in the suit, accused administrators of being "more interested in face-saving than substantive changes to address the problem. ..."
At the time I overlooked that quote. But it fits so well with the continuing behavior of our Shadow University.