American U asks job applicants to show 'multicultural competence'

American University is taking steps to improve "inclusion" on campus by holding mandatory "implicit bias" trainings and evaluating job applicants on their level of "multicultural competence."

In a letter to students Thursday, a copy of which was obtained by Campus Reform, Provost Scott Bass and Vice President of Campus Life Gail Hanson outline a multi-step action plan for promoting “campus inclusion,” which they say was developed over the course of one week in consultation with students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

One of the major concerns the university has is to make classrooms more inclusive, which it hopes to accomplish by requiring “training and education to raise awareness and improve sensitivity in interactions with faculty, students, and staff.”

The university already has an “Unmasking Your Privilege” workshop to help students, but has now added “Creating Inclusive Communities” as a companion workshop.

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The “Unmasking Your Privilege” workshop helps individuals understand “their own multiple identities [and] explore personal experiences they have had with privilege and oppression,” while the “Creating Inclusive Communities” workshop takes things one step further by teaching students how to be more inclusive on an institutional and community level.

Apart from workshops, American University will also teach students about “implicit bias,” which is defined by the National Center for State Courts as bias that occurs on the subconscious level and is unintentional.

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“Recent retreats focused on creating inclusive communities and implicit bias” and the “Eagle Summit included sessions on implicit bias,” Bass and Hanson report, adding that “the Welcome Week provided activities focused on social justice,” as well.

In addition, AU is working to “improve and clarify policies and processes for reporting, response, and communication related to incidents of discrimination and bias,” saying it hopes to “simplify the process for reporting incidents of bias” based on input from students and the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion.

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“Bias related incidents seldom have identified perpetrators,” the letter tells the students, but promises that “when Student Conduct Code violations involve student victims, the Office of Student Conduct is prepared to integrate restorative justice into the inventory of sanctions imposed in such cases.”

Apart from the student-focused initiatives, AU is also striving to “increase diversity among the faculty” by providing “additional training on recruitment of diverse faculty” to tenure-track faculty search committees, as well as by identifying five new tenure-track positions for faculty “with expertise in race or related studies.”

For existing faculty members, meanwhile, the school is endeavoring to foster inclusivity through training sessions, “periodic visits to all faculty departments to discuss campus climate matters,” and incorporating inclusion as “a major topic of conversation at the upcoming University Retreat.”

Staff members are also required to complete anti-discrimination training, but face an even higher hurdle with respect to the hiring process, according to the letter, which notes that “the Office of Campus Life evaluates candidates’ multicultural competence as an integral part of the hiring process.”

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