A culture of respect begins with U

Many universities offer undergraduates online training to raise awareness about things that cause harm to themselves and others, such as alcohol or drug abuse. Confronting the dangerous realities head-on can give students the tools to avoid or change problematic behavior. Beginning in spring 2019, the University of Utah partnered with the company EverFi to implement a new training module about diversity, equity and inclusion to help students reflect on how their actions can create a safer campus environment. New students can access the course through their CIS accounts.

“This is about living in a community with diversity. It’s a positive approach to creating inclusive spaces on our campus,” said Lori McDonald, the U’s dean of Students. “This is really important, but it’s just one tool meant to facilitate conversations about what diversity, inclusion and equity mean to our campus community.”

The module offers insight into what diversity, inclusion and equity are all about. “Diversity is about understanding and honoring the ways that people are unique. Inclusion is about welcoming all people,” the introductory module video states. “Equity means fairness….Equity is about giving everybody what they need to be successful.”

The interactive training module includes videos, activities and resources that help each of us understand who we are, how fairness impacts our communities and how to support a culture of mutual respect. The training explores identity, power, oppression and privilege through specific stories to illustrate that “[t]he way we view people is shaped by a variety of factors like our experiences, national and cultural histories, and the communities that we grew up in,” according to the module. The module helps us understand our unconscious biases, which are the attitudes or assumptions we unconsciously make about the people around us. It then gives us tools to identify and change those behaviors.

“I talk to so many students who are confronted with their own unconscious bias for the first time. It’s usually rooted in feelings of guilt and not wanting to intentionally harm anybody,” said McDonald. “We all have biases based on our individual life experiences. The first thing to do is to become aware of what your biases are and how they impact people in our community. You can’t change them unless you’re aware of them to begin with.”

The module not only offers an introduction to understanding issues of diversity but also provides specific actions that one can do to make the campus a more inclusive place.

“The online module is just one tool that helps have conversations about what diversity, inclusion and equity mean to our campus community,” said McDonald.