Google's 'Bias Busting' spreads to college campuses

Carnegie Mellon University is recruiting students to facilitate workshops to reduce “unconscious bias,” even though such workshops aren’t proven to be effective. 

Launched in 2015, BiasBusters @ CMU has educated more than 1,500 students, faculty, and community members on how to reduce their “unconscious bias,” which allegedly has “harmful impacts” on women and minorities. 

“Unconscious bias is a persistent and pressing social issue with significant negative consequences, especially for populations which bear the brunt of stereotyping,” explains Carol Frieze, the computer science professor who directs the program. 

Because students leave campus during the summer, no BiasBusters workshops are scheduled in the coming months, Frieze told Campus Reform, though she did note that the program is ongoing, and confirmed plans to facilitate workshops in the Fall. 

“Summer is a little quieter,” Frieze explained. 

[RELATED: Research finds implicit bias training is ineffective]

The program at Carnegie Mellon was created in direct collaboration with Google’s Bias Busting workshop series, which was announced with much fanfare in 2013 and had already been taken by half of the company’s 56,000 employees after just two years.

Campus Reform reached out to Google to ask if the Bias Busting workshops have actually been linked to a reduction in bias incidents among employees, but the company did not reply. 

Notably, Google’s curriculum warns participants not to “debate whether bias exists at your organization,” and urges attendees “avoid humor” as it “usually backfires.” This curriculum is used at Carnegie Mellon as well, according to a paper provided to Campus Reform by Frieze. 

[RELATED: Mandatory diversity course not effective, prof discovers]

To fight bias, CMU also encourages students to “use more inclusive language”—such as saying “partner” instead of “husband” or “boyfriend”—as well as to “wear a t-shirt or sticker on your computer to show your support to certain groups.” 

“Become a member of a non-dominant group, even if you don’t ‘identify’ with that group,” BiasBusters @ CMU suggests to students. 

Carnegie Mellon is the only university to implement the program so far, but probably not for long. 

“The goal is to make the generic [BiasBusters] program available to any college or university interested in bringing bias and inclusivity programming to their campus,” Frieze noted. 

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