If you’re white or otherwise aberrated and can’t contain your microaggressions, the University of Iowa (UI) can help. You’ll need to first get hired; but then moral correction is a mere computer simulation away — thanks to the school’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
From the Staff Council at Iowa.edu:
The success of [UI] depends in large measure on the ability of staff and faculty to create a welcoming, inclusive community. Meeting the needs of a large and diverse student body is difficult and takes understanding, collaboration, and looking for ways to better communicate.
The Office of [DEI] is partnering with Kognito, a company specializing in experiential learning and development opportunities, to provide a brief interactive training for Cultivating Inclusive Communities (CIC). This training helps staff and faculty “gain awareness, knowledge, skills, and self-confidence to engage across differences with integrity and empathy.”
Trainees will “take the role of an administrator having a conversation with a student.” Once in the hot seat, they’ll be treated to “a variety of conversational options” — some virtuous, others unwoke.
Like higher education’s DEI budget, participants will grow:
The training takes about 20 minutes and begins with the idea that “there’s room for me to grow.”
Not so long ago, Americans were generally trusted not to speak to each other like idiots. However, our superior sensitivity calls for a maximally-monitored discourse…
[CIC]…helps participants recognize there are times when a well-intentioned phrase may end up causing harm.
Harm is all around. It’s veritable violence, lurking in the shadows of nouns and verbs. Such is the case for a world unprecedentedly enlightened:
UI’s Cultivating Inclusive Communities course consists of four episodes:
Per Kognito’s website, CIC depicts trees, plants, and flowers that must have Equity and Inclusion for life.
In case the metaphor is mystifying:
As the gardener, we want all the plants to thrive.
To that end, employees are shown a virtual black woman — “Dr. Amira Heller, she/her” (Director of Student Equity and Inclusion) — plus a white man in a wheelchair, “Dr. Frank Lavin, he/him” (Associate Dean of Clinical Sciences). They sit with “a young Latina” student who introduces herself thusly:
“I’m Eve Sanchez, she/them. I’m a senior studying Health Sciences.”
Eve beseeches them — bestow benevolence:
“As students, we see faculty and staff as holding power. We ask you to use this power to work with us to create inclusive and equitable learning environments.”
Fast-forward to Frank’s confessional: He once asked a married coworker about her husband. As it turned out, she had a wife. “Admitting you made a mistake, trying to grow from it, that’s what matters,” young Eve soothingly serves.
- “You’re so articulate.”
- “But where are you really from?”
- “Are you the first in your family to get a degree?”
- “Don’t you feel hot in that outfit?”
- “I’m not racist — I have several Black friends.”
- “Is anyone in your family part of an extremist group?”
Frank apologizes on behalf of bigots — “Harmful words and ideas can ruin a sense of belonging or safety.”
Later, multiple-person Eve (she/them) reveals her/their pain due to a class — the guest speakers and experts featured in videos have all been men. Does she, therefore, feel included? “I don’t always,” she laments.
Frank — her/their professor — apologizes and promises future materials will “represent more diverse perspectives” in his science course.
Later, the crew learns to be gentle with pronouns and “cisgender” Eve’s sexuality. She/they has “pan” in her/their pants:
“I identify as a pansexual cis Latina.”
And they likes “to use ‘Latinx’ when speaking in general about [her/their] community.”
Toward the end of the training, a white student named Kacy is taught to never say “illegal immigrant.” She concedes:
“[I]f it’s better to use a word like ‘undocumented’ or ‘unauthorized’ or whatever, I can do that.”
So go “diverse perspectives” — as part of, per the University of Iowa, “equipping [staff] with the knowledge and skills to create a safe, supportive, respectful, and welcoming culture.” All that is “directly related to overall student wellness and success.”
In our age of luxury, comfort is king. And UI employees are learning important lessons in the war against exclusion. They’ll exclude all possibilities that aren’t allowed, allowing inclusion of what things aren’t excluded from being inclusive. They’re Navigating Courageous Conversations, in order to take the Next Steps in human evolution. And thankfully, the next time they meet a Black Muslim birthing person who’s more than one person and turned on by kitchenware, they’ll know exactly how to speak to her/them/panself — especially if the individual/singled-bodied-bunch is undocumented.
In the end, will graduates come out more prepared for the world? Either way, at least they’ll be heartily unharmed.