When you’re hired at Western as a faculty or staff member, you have to complete an online training known as EverFi. It’s a program that takes up to an hour to complete and trains users on spotting and preventing sexual assault and violence. In addition to that, faculty and staff must complete a separate training on workplace sexual harassment through the Equal Opportunity Office, with a refresher course every three years.
And that’s all the required training faculty and staff have to complete when they’re employed by Western. Nothing about implicit bias. Nothing about Title IX violations outside of sexual harassment. Nothing about intersectionality or diversity. Of course, trainings like this are available every quarter, but aren’t required. If you’re a temporary faculty member, you aren’t even required to attend the trainings that permanent faculty is.
In doing this, we are failing our students. Just because you have a doctorate, PhD or master’s degree, that doesn’t mean you should stop doing the necessary work of educating yourself as our society changes.
This lack of mandatory trainings were brought to light by students during a forum held in the anthropology department on Feb. 27, 2019. After Paul James, a non-Black member of the department, was found to have said the N-word in class, students organized an event to talk with faculty and Todd Koetje, department head, about how to decolonize and re-center the education of anthropology. One of the proposed ways to decolonize the department was through mandatory diversity and inclusion trainings. While optional trainings are available and plentiful, anthropology faculty who attended the forum said few people show up, and rarely the people who really need it.
If a professor needs to attend these trainings because their behavior goes against some of Western’s core values, they are usually required to attend the trainings as part of the resolution of an informal EOO investigation. That means the professor must first have demonstrated discriminatory or ignorant behavior to someone, who then had to go through the process of reporting their behavior. The obligation is put on people who may have been harmed by the professor. If the trainings were required in the first place, vulnerable people wouldn’t have to take time out of their life to report the faculty and staff who need to further their education.
The fact that all mandatory trainings revolve around sexual harassment and assault is telling; despite being important issues, they also show where Western places their values. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a more provable, preventable and fireable offense than racism or homophobia.
Western is reevaluating their required trainings soon. Adding required trainings that revolve around diversity and inclusivity would be smart.
The Western Front Editorial Board is composed of Julia Berkman, Laura Place and Stella Harvey