Monday, May 03, 2004

Scholars do mandatory training 

For some reason the wireless connection in the meeting room for diversity training failed to work properly and I could not post from there. I took copious notes, however, and will reconstruct the scene for you.

3:45pm We've recently redesigned our student union and have a new meeting room there able to hold over 100. It was this room where we met. The room is wide. One signs in and receives a tag where we place only first names. (Not much help for anonymity in my case.) I sit in the back. Most of the people who come sit with me are friends and Friends of the Flashlight (a rhetorical device I use on the campus listserv to refer to looking for truth.) Handwritten presentation sheets are tacked up on walls with these messages:No explanation is offered to any of these throughout the period except for the "no guilt" sign, which we're told is meant to tell us nobody is being called guilty of anything. But it's still mandatory. She acknowledges this later. (Who's she, you ask? This is she.)

3:55 pm -- There are many things on two long tables in the front. It looks like some prizes. A t-shirt is displayed that says "when is recess?" Ah, I see we're going for the high-intellect clients here.

4:05pm She opens with a question. When she receives an answer she hands out candy. I feel like barking like a seal asking for a fish. Again, she's used to working with a different audience than this, it appears. Maybe with seals.

4:08pm -- tells us to groan. We comply. More seals dance in my head.

4:09pm -- tells us not to groan for the rest of the session. No more seals -- I now imagine Norwegians with clubs.

4:10pm Connection is not going to work. Dammit. Now she tells us to get up and greet as many people as we can in 90 seconds. This is called "sharing the peace" in my church. Everyone complies except for one campus radical who makes sure I know I ain't feeling any love from him today. Can't tell if he is shaking anyone else's hand -- maybe he's got a germ phobia.

4:12pm -- for a bunch of central Minnesotans, we sure do touch and greet a lot. OK not to touch too, we're told. Oh, good. She asks if we do this elsewhere: Many say church, and she says, "Besides church." Why "besides"?

4:15pm -- We're going to break up into groups. Of course. It's always small group/large group with these types of things. Never individuals. Groups. Remember community.

4:30pm -- I chose to turn off the laptop for fifteen minutes. I know none of the guys in my group, though one apparently knows me. (Thanks for the distinctive name, Mom and Dad!) But they seem good people. Groups are assigned one of three tasks -- "What strengthens communities?" "What destroys communities?" "What are the strengths of SCSU?" Among strengths is listed "affirming the other." I'd be happy to do that if I only knew what the hell that means. "Destroyers" (I was in one of these groups) included ,
failure to communicate, docileness (I like that one), and economic inequity. I tried for "good fences make good neighbors", but it doesn't make the list. Among SCSU strengths is "Hope we change lives in a positve manner." "Work and visibility of social change programs," and :Willingness to talk about diversity." Creating more intelligent students doesn't come up. "Concern for student success" does, without any discussion of what that success looks like. Well, we only have 75 minutes.

4:40pm -- She says she's proud to have us as clients. For $7000 for three days of training, I'll be proud too, dear. She says we're already doing much for diversity. Well, is it ever enough? Nope.

4:45pm -- Another damn group. This time I end up with two acquaintances, a new professor and an administrator who has to speak for the president some days. I thought MY job was bad. We're getting a case study! Yeah.

5:00pm -- The case is of a guy who has a colleague who refers to getting a deal on a purchase by "jewing him down". It's more nuanced than this, and at first a guy picks up some nuances. But now come the usual diversity hustlers -- seems like we get a number of them.

5:05pm -- Oh, I see Tabakin is here. Sorry I missed him during the handshaking; this has to be a different experience for him. He's asking why we all assume that in this situation it is the Jewish department member that has to speak up. OK, that's a fair question. I'm pretty sure my two other group members are not Jewish and we're all saying we'd have to say something about it.

5:07pm -- Mr. No-Shake speaks. Can't figure out why anyone wouldn't know that the phrase "to jew someone down" is offensive. It's our responsibility, he says. Doesn't this imply that if we do not say something, we're guilty? And isn't that collective guilt?

5:10pm -- other diversity hustlers look at clock and be sure they get off their shots before they go. At this point I can barely listen any more. Woman from HR handing out forms now for one minute evaluation. Actually, until No-Shake I was willing to leave this as just another colossal waste of time, and goodness knows we've got plenty of those here, but now I'm pissed. I'm responsible for the discomfort of others who are not like me, but not responsible for those who are like me? Huh? Where does this end? Maybe here.

5:20pm -- Done. While packing up I watch a young female faculty member cleaning up the trash many leave behind. I ask her why. "Because otherwise some poor person who makes less than I do will have to do it." Yes, and get paid, which he won't get if you keep doing his job for him. I decide to join in, and throw away several copies of the handouts that we're given by HR to "learn more" that other faculty discard on the floor.

UPDATE (5/4): Thanks for linkage to 599 to 1, L&P and Cold Spring Shops.