Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Mandatory diversity training, take two 

I suppose we'll have to discuss this, as much as I'd like to forget it. One of our major issues on this blog a year ago was the anti-Semitism (or anti-anti-Semitism) case settlement. Last fall one of the elements of the settlement, mandatory (or not, depending on who you asked) diversity training, was supposed to take place during Convocation exercises. Only, it turns out, it may well have been insufficient. On April 12 this year, one of the plaintiffs in the case went to the judge and asked for a ruling whether defendants were in contempt of court for not providing for the case. The discussion turns on whether the training was sufficiently mandatory, and had a sufficient component on anti-Semitism to meet the agreement. The judge has held over the case until July for determination if the agreement's stipulation on diversity training has been met. This consulting firm will provide training sessions now for finals week.

Let me add a few new points. First, the settlement is now available online for readers that are interested, courtesy of this blog. The point in contention is point 15 form the settlement. Second, the university is now saying that it will engage in progressive discipline for faculty that do not participate. ("The trainings will continue until morale improves.") Third, the plaintiff, the only member of that group still at SCSU, has now been quite throroughly ostracized not only by the administration but by the union as well. A long-time faculty senator, he has decided to resign from the union as it will not support him as he sees it should.

Nobody will claim parentage for Point 15 ("Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan.") We do not know the goals of the training, nor are those of us who might object to this given alternatives, which even federal government employees are supposed to have. (Thanks to Jim W. for that link.)

Most faculty, who are viewed as bigots unable to tolerate diversity training, are unhappy but resigned to their fate. Says one usually sensible professor:
Quite frankly, this sounds like a great deal. The university is willing to pay me my standard salary, which is about twice what I make when I write books, to learn about an issue that has had great repercussions at my employment site and within my profession. Sure it isn�t my first choice of activities, but it is something that can help me do my job better, if I take it seriously. I spent over a thousand dollars this year attending meetings to help me better serve my students, this time, I get paid. Compared to the $20 dollars I SPENT Monday for the opportunity to read magazines for 60 minutes and then visit with my physician for 5 minutes, this is a terrific opportunity.
I don't doubt that the benefit of the training will exceed the costs to a significant group of our faculty, but that's more a statement on the productivity of those faculty than on the benefits of the training.

Should we just suck it up and attend? "It's only 75 minutes," I'm told, and "we can't continue to look so recalcitrant." I answered this on the campus discussion list last night.'s not the 75 minutes or the $50 that matters, but this: The life of the university is kept alive each day by the vigorous pursuit of critical truth, the free exchange of ideas by emancipated, individual human beings. What repels in this training -- in all these trainings -- is that academics must check their pursuit of the life of the mind and spirit so as to obey the dictum that pervades the American university: Thou shalt not offend those that are protected. This is the failure that is an orphan, because we run from it.