U. Minnesota students urge diversity training for admissions

Students at the University of Minnesota (UM) are pressuring the administration to institute special training for admissions faculty aimed at reducing “implicit biases” that the students claim is hindering efforts to increase diversity.

Nicholas Goldsmith, president of the Council of Graduate Students (COGS), a student government organization, told The Minnesota Daily that many students have suggested that the group’s platform for the upcoming school year should include efforts to promote “bias training” for admissions officers at the school’s various colleges.

The Medical School has already instituted such training for new employees, in addition to adopting new admissions policies designed to take non-test score factors into account when evaluating applicants. It seems that students want the University’s other colleges to follow suit.

“A timed test [like the GRE] for someone who speaks a foreign language just doesn’t work,” explained Jon Gottesman, director of the Office of Biomedical Graduate Research, Education and Training. Under the new standards, Gottesman concedes that applicants’ test scores are somewhat lower than they were in the past, but maintains that quality and diversity have simultaneously risen, even as the number of applicants has doubled since 2010.

And judging from the school’s Campus Climate Report—issued in January by a working group created at the behest of UM President Eric Kaler—increasing diversity among faculty and students is among the school’s top priorities.

Drawing on survey data on student experience, the working group concludes that minority students find the campus “less welcoming” than white students do, and suggests that, “[t]he campus would feel more welcoming for students of color if they saw more people like themselves on our campus—in classes, in the faculty, among staff, and within the student body.”

To that end, the report includes a number of recommendations designed to “recruit, retain, and graduate more students of color.”

The proposed Multicultural Connections Program, for instance, is billed as a way to “strengthen the pipeline of underrepresented students of color to the University” by inviting middle school males to the campus and providing them with information about campus life and “the importance of preparatory work in high school to become college ready.”

Another program suggested in the report, the Living Learning Community Administrative Fellows initiative, would be geared toward enhancing the sense of community felt by minority students by hiring five graduate students who would “help meet [their] culturally specific and academic needs.”

The workgroup also notes that people of color are not the only underrepresented group on campus in need of outreach, and suggests that efforts to increase diversity should also target “people with both visible and invisible disabilities,” “people who identify as women,” and “people of various gender and sexual identities and expressions.”

Representatives for the University of Minnesota did not respond by press time to Campus Reform’s request for comment on the administration’s response to those advocating bias training for admissions staff.

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