'Social Justice Committee' to train faculty on 'microaggressions'

Students at the University of Denver have formed a “Social Justice Committee” with a goal of revamping curriculum to include topics of “privilege” and “microaggressions.”

The “Social Justice Committee,” spearheaded by Counseling Psychology student Eve Faris, plans to work with professors to “ incorporate issues of power, privilege, and inequity into all of the Counseling Psychology curriculum,” while hosting workshops on “responding to microaggressions.”

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Although the committee quietly convened shortly after the election of Donald Trump, it was formally introduced to the university community last Wednesday, according to Faris, who noted that the group currently has 20 active members.

"There were a lot of tensions on campus around that time,” Faris told Campus Reform. “You know, students, not just grad students, were looking for a lot more support from the university as a whole, in terms of supporting diversity initiatives, and social justice initiatives.”

Faris went on to reveal that the committee’s primary goal for the upcoming semester is curriculum reform, noting that while social justice themes are“sprinkled throughout” the curriculum as it stands, her group wants professors to teach more extensively on topics of “privilege,” “racial tensions,” “people of color,” and “microaggressions,” because doing so would “benefit students.”

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To that end, her group has submitted curriculum recommendations to professors, who plan to address the committee’s concerns at their upcoming faculty retreat.

Of particular importance to Faris and her peers is the topic of “microaggressions,” with Faris explaining that not only does she want “all professors to teach about them,” but plans to roll out “microaggression training workshops” in the fall.

“Microaggressions definitely do have mental health impacts, and that's why it's important for counselors in training to deal with them,” Faris remarked. “Everything that happens in the real world happens in counseling psychology.”

Additionally, Faris’ committee wants to introduce “trainings” for all professors in the hopes that it will help them be more cognizant of social-justice issues.

Similarly, she hopes professors will implement “reflective surveys” for students so they can assess the “socio-political and multicultural climate” of each classroom.

“Their hope is that in the future, curricula across University of Denver programs will reflect those themes, and provide a space where all students and faculty feel safe,” an online description for the committee elaborates.

Faculty have shown overwhelming support for the committee, both Faris and the school’s media relations office confirmed, noting that professors were involved with the organization from its initial conception.

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A university spokesperson told Campus Reform that the “newly-created, student-led Counseling Psychology Social Justice Committee is an example of open dialogue and the ongoing evaluation process” of curriculum at the university.

“Dr. Patton Garriott and Dr. Ruth Chao serve as faculty sponsors of the committee and facilitate communication between the CP faculty and student leaders,” the spokesperson continued. “Counseling Psychology faculty are proactive in addressing student concerns and will be reviewing the curriculum reform recommendations at their upcoming faculty retreat.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen