Every student coming to Pacific Lutheran University listens to a mandatory lecture on diversity and inclusivity. Staff and faculty, though, have no required training in dealing with what’s termed “microaggressions.”
The Diversity Center defines microaggressions as “the everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely on their marginalized group status.”
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any options available. Faculty and staff attending their summer orientation had the option to attend a workshop on microaggressions led by Galen Ciscell (a visiting sociology professor) and Nicole Juliano (assistant director of the D-Center).
“[During the conference] we explored the taxonomy of microaggressions,” Juliano said. “We talked about how microaggressions play out in our everyday lives and in the classroom.”
Eliminating microaggressions is all about creating a safe space in the classroom, Ciscell said. In their workshop, they gave attendees the tools they’d need to identify the biases that everyone has.
“We’re living in a world where we all have these preconceived perceptions and biases, and many of those biases we don’t know about until we discover that we have them,” Juliano said. The workshop focused on educating people to find their biases and eliminate them.
Additionally, PLU’s Bias Incident Response Team is operational now and accessible via the Diversity Center’s website. The BIRT’s mission is to “strengthen and sustain an environment of respect, justice, and care for all members of the PLU community.” It serves as a way for students and staff to report incidents of explicit and implicit bias, and can respond accordingly to each incident.
“At the very minimum, I think its consciousness-raising.” Juliano said. “We’re beginning to create dialogue between students and the staff and faculty.”
Jenny James is an English professor, and currently teaches a course on American literature where one of the major themes is displacement within a community. She attended Ciscell and Juliano’s workshop at orientation.
“If there’s a microaggression raised in the classroom, [the workshop] taught us to create a conversation of self-reflection,” said James. “[The training] is a key step in all of us being a part of this diverse community that’s working for a just world.”
There will be more workshops available to staff and faculty at the beginning of the spring semester on Feb. 3 at 8:30 a.m. in the Anderson University Center.
“It’s a lofty goal to eliminate bias and microaggressions in the world,” Juliano said. “But we do hope to provide skills to our students, faculty and staff to engage in those difficult conversations”