In the midst of nationwide protests against police brutality, dozens of Northwest students and alumni took to Twitter and Facebook in June to share stories of being marginalized by faculty, residential life staff and students and demanded change from the administration and the Board of Regents.
Eight and a half weeks later, Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion Justin Mallett presented the first measure taken in response to the Board of Regents at its Aug. 7 meeting.
In my strategies class for pre-calculus I was one of two hispanics in the class, the rest of the class was white. The entire semester two boys in my class constantly called me Chihuahua, instead of by my name. To this day, I am ashamed that I never spoke up. #ICantBreatheAtNWMSU— Jenni (@JenniferGtz28) June 5, 2020
“In my strategies class for pre-calculus I was one of two hispanics in the class, the rest of the class was white. The entire semester two boys in my class constantly called me Chihuahua, instead of by my name. To this day, I am ashamed that I never spoke up. #ICantBreatheAtNWMSU,” @JenniferGtz28 tweeted June 5.
Another student, @bryana_jones on Twitter, shared a story from an anonymous Black student who said they were ostracized by a University faculty member in class. Jones said she and other students in the class reported the behavior, but nothing became of it.
“#ICantBreatheAtNWMSU Here’s one of my experiences of being LGBTQ+ at NWMSU: I’m transgender and I sent out an email to all of my professors stating that my name was different than on my record. Most of my professors accepted it. One kept calling me by my dead name and ‘He-She,’” @mamakat115 tweeted.
#ICantBreatheAtNWMSU— Kat (@mamakat115) June 6, 2020
Here’s one of my experiences of being LGBTQ+ at NWMSU:
I’m transgender and I sent out an email to all of my professors stating that my name was different than on my record. Most of my professors accepted it. One kept calling me by my dead name and “He-She”.
Mallett said social media posts like these were the catalyst for the University to require diversity training for all employees. He said as of Aug. 17, 82% of employees completed the online training.
The required training, Mallett said, covers base-level concepts, including becoming aware of bias and privilege. He emphasized that this training was a place to start for employees and supplemental training will become available soon covering topics like ethnocentrism, racial healing and colorism.
In addition to faculty and staff, the Board of Regents, Northwest Foundation Board and the Northwest Alumni Board are required to take the training.
Mallett said all feedback on the training so far has been positive.
“Understanding the definitions, understanding that it’s a level set, it’s not going to go into the deep, complex facets of systemic racism and institutional bias, to provide the basic concepts of ‘What is a microaggression?’ ‘What is discrimination?’” Mallett said. “Everyone’s been happy with the basic level set.
Whether the training is successful, Mallett said, will be measured through the actions of employees. Whether a rise in reported incidents will be indicative of success or failure is complex, since Mallett said he hopes more students feel empowered to report discrimination and harrassment, but he also hopes there are fewer incidents that need to be reported.
This training works in conjunction with the Bearcat Equity Initiative, which the Office of Title IX and Equity will launch later in August. The initiative will allow students an avenue to deal with incidents of discrimination and harrassment that are not shortly resolved.
Mallett said employees who don’t complete the training in a timely fashion will be subject to the employee disciplinary process.