Vanderbilt to students: 'Separate feelings from facts’ to recognize ‘unconscious bias’

The university "provides" these trainings during the process of "all faculty searches."

Vanderbilt university faculty participate in an extensive set of training sessions to recognize "unconscious bias."

Since last year, Vanderbilt University has been instructing its administration and faculty in ongoing “unconscious bias” training. 

According to the university’s website, Vanderbilt defines unconscious bias as “prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person, or group as compared to another, in a way that is usually considered unfair.” 

“Although we all have biases, many unconscious biases tend to be exhibited toward minority groups based on factors such as class, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, nationality, religious beliefs, age, disability and more,” explains the university.

In August 2019, Vanderbilt held a daylong workshop on unconscious bias for the university’s senior leaders. In October, the university also held an intensive four-day long workshop called “Train the Trainer” for both administration and faculty members. The purpose of the “Train the Trainer” workshop was to equip faculty and administration members to hold their own unconscious bias trainings in the future. 

Vanderbilt boasts that it “provides” these sessions “as part of all faculty searches.”

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The university says that the general purpose of this type of training is to “mitigate the effects of unconscious bias” and foster their community’s “culture of inclusion.”

 “To fulfill our commitment to foster an inclusive and equitable community, we must continue to learn, grow and challenge our own perceptions and biases,” explains Interim Chancellor and Provost of Vanderbilt, Susan Wente.

Vanderbilt also offers guidance for students and faculty in avoiding unconscious bias, listing ten tips for mitigating unconscious bias. These include suggestions to “develop safe and brave spaces to discuss unconscious bias,” to “engage in self-reflection to uncover personal biases,” and to “separate feelings from facts.”

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“Unconscious bias training can give valuable insight into how our upbringing, personality, and education shapes our impressions of others, but I question the necessity of those trainings for students like me who interact with diverse perspectives on a daily basis,” Vanderbilt College Republicans president Will Friztler told Campus Reform.

“All of us probably have unconscious biases, but only when they demonstrably affect student leadership should training be required of college students. That is a higher bar than many universities may use,” Fritzler added.

Campus Reform reached out to the university for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.  

Follow the author of this article on Twitter:@carolinefshaver