MSU employees forced to pay for mandatory diversity workshop

The workshop will emphasize "differences rather than similarities," and aims to make participants more aware of issues like "racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and ableism."

Michigan State University is requiring all of its "MSU Extension" program employees to attend a two-day "Multicultural Self-Awareness Workshop," and is even making them pay $75 out of their own pockets.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include comments from MSU elaborating on the nature of the registration fee.

Michigan State University is requiring its “MSU Extension” program employees to fork over $75 of their own money to attend a “Multicultural Self-Awareness Workshop” next week.

“All MSU Extension employees regardless of funding source or appointment are expected to attend this ‘cornerstone’ multicultural workshop which sets an organizational framework for recognizing, understanding, and appreciating differences,” the university announced on its website.

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The two-day workshop will take place June 26-27, and will teach Extension employees “ways in which to view interactions with people different from themselves” over the course of 15.5 hours of programming.

“The emphasis is on differences rather than similarities. The workshop focuses on the individual and helps explore belief systems about multiculturalism to identify feelings and values from a multicultural perspective,” the university explains. “This intensive learning experience focuses on increasing awareness of several areas of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression, including racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and ableism.”

According to the event description, MSU Extension employees are expected to “participate fully” in the workshop “without phone calls, meetings, and other interruptions which diminish the learning experience for all.”

“Participants are encouraged to reflect on how they’ve learned to think about human differences and on the widespread tendency to view differences within a monocultural view of ‘better than/less than’ thinking,” the description states. “In addition, participants have opportunities to apply what they’re learning to work-related scenarios and explore alternative, more helpful behaviors.”

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Notably, each MSU Extension employee will be required to pay $75 to attend the workshop, while non-MSU Extension employees are allowed to attend for $150 per person.

MSU Extension is a division of the university that “helps people improve their lives by bringing the vast knowledge resources of MSU directly to individuals, communities, and businesses” through outreach programs intended to provide information about issues like “Michigan’s agriculture economy,” how to use natural resources in a “sustainable” way, and “controlling health care costs by giving individuals the information they need to manage chronic illness.”

UPDATE (June 27): MSU spokesperson Sean Corp provided Campus Reform with additional information about the workshop, asserting that there is a convoluted funding process that prevents MSU Extension employees from having to pay for the workshop out of their own pocket.

”There is a small registration fee to help cover expenses but the program is largely subsidized by MSU Extension. Further, MSU Extension provides all employees with an operating account, and that is what is used to pay the registration fee for this workshop,” Corp explained. “This method ensures that we have an accurate registration list and minimizes last-minute cancellations and no-shows. Employees are not asked to pay for this program using personal funds.”

When asked to clarify what the university meant when it said that all MSU Extension employees “are expected to attend” the workshop, however, Corp merely reiterated that “MSU Extension employees are expected to attend the multicultural awareness workshop” without indicating whether there are any negative consequences for those who fail to attend.

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