Mandatory Implicit Bias Training starts by noting IBT doesn’t change behavior

The UO administration is now requiring all search committee members to take a two-hour training on implicit bias. I did an abbreviated version at a BOT meeting last year, and I’m at one of the three long versions right now, with about 60 other faculty and administrators. The presenter, Erik Girvan (Law), who gives these talks often, starts this one off by acknowledging that there is lots of empirical evidence showing that these trainings do not affect implicit bias, or actual behavior. So I guess we’re just here to check a box – or for the talk, which is an interesting mix of advocacy and science.

More (from my comment), responding to a comment saying Erik did a good job:

I agree. It’s tough to mix science and advocacy without going off the rails in one direction or another – particularly when you’re being paid to present a particular argument, and the audience has been ordered to attend and pay with their time. (I’ll guess that, including the opportunity cost of attendee time, these trainings cost UO about $75,000.) Erik did a good job despite this.

There was plenty I’d argue about – i.e. the casual use of “bias” when talking about conditional means which are by definition unbiased estimates, the general over-emphasis on the implicit association test, and starting with the shades-of-gray visual illusion, which is too obvious an attempt to manipulate people into agreeing they must be biased about race too. But it did grab people’s attention.

I thought the most powerful part was the behavioral results from the randomized resume and email response surveys, which show pervasive racist behavior in decisions that are clearly related to actual mentoring and employment situations.

My understanding is that people’s racist employment decisions are generally not correlated with their IAT results. That said I think Erik successfully used the IAT as a useful teaching tool, in part because it opens people up to thinking about their own biases, and maybe about their own behavior, in a safe, non-threatening way. I can see why administrators love it, regardless of the validity of the science.

Sanjay Srivastava (Psych) posted my “check a box” comment on his @hardsci twitter, and there are a bunch of comments, including some arguing that mandatory diversity training of this sort actually harms diversity, because of a reactivity effect. Check it out at https://twitter.com/hardsci

And, for the record, I am now officially certified by the University of Oregon Office of Equity and Inclusion as being allowed to participate in faculty hiring. Please don’t tell my chair!

Hello William,

You are now enrolled in the following session: “Understanding Implicit Bias”.

Below are the date(s)/time(s) of the session: Oct 12th, 2017, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

*** Course Description ***

How can someone’s race, sex, age, and other characteristics influence the way we see and treat them even when we are genuinely trying to be unbiased? What concrete steps can we take to help prevent this from happening? To help answer these questions, this workshop introduces the concept of implicit bias. Through a mix of short presentations, lively activities, and discussions, we will explore some harmful side effects of how our brains naturally perceive, categorize, and draw inferences about the world, including other people. We will also examine when this kind of bias is most likely to occur. And we will talk about what practical steps we can all take to try to reduce or eliminate it as well as what has been shown not to work. This workshop may be of particular interest to those serving on search committees and hiring managers.

*** Session Information ***
Description:  For more information, please contact: Rafael Lopez – lopezr@uoregon.edu

Location:  EMU: 231 & 232, Cedar & Spruce Rooms

Instructor:  Dr. Erik Girvan

Please do not reply to this email as it is automatically generated.

Thank you for using Making Tracks: A Registration and Tracking System for the University of Oregon brought to you by Professional Development.

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14 Responses to Mandatory Implicit Bias Training starts by noting IBT doesn’t change behavior

  1. Dog says:

    Yes I have already bitched, extensively, that this mandatory check box is insulting and a waste of time for faculty. But no one above us lowly faculty cares our time is being wasted.

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    Rating: +6 (from 16 votes)
  2. too much caffeine says:

    I thought it was interesting and that Erik did a good job.

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    Rating: +2 (from 6 votes)
    • uomatters says:

      I agree. It’s tough to mix science and advocacy without going off the rails in one direction or another – particularly when you’re being paid to present a particular argument, and the audience has been ordered to attend and pay with their time. Erik did a good job despite this.
      There was plenty I’d argue about – i.e. the casual use of “bias” when talking about conditional means which are by definition unbiased estimates, the general over-emphasis on the implicit association test, and starting with the shades-of-gray visual illusion, which is too obvious an attempt to manipulate people into agreeing they must be biased about race too. But it did grab people’s attention.
      I thought the most powerful part was the behavioral results from the randomized resume and email response surveys, which show pervasive racist behavior in decisions that are clearly related to actual mentoring and employment situations.
      My understanding is that people’s racist employment decisions are generally not correlated with their IAT results. That said I think Erik successfully used the IAT as a useful teaching tool, in part because it opens people up to thinking about their own biases, and maybe about their own behavior, in a safe, non-threatening way. I can see why administrators love it, regardless of the science.
      Sanjay Srivastava (Psych) posted my “check a box” comment on his @hardsci twitter, and there are a bunch of comments, including some arguing that mandatory diversity training of this sort actually harms diversity, because of a reactivity effect. Check it out at https://twitter.com/hardsci

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      Rating: +7 (from 9 votes)
  3. Anonymous says:

    Check out the Search Advocate training at Oregon State University. It’s coordinated out of Academic Affairs and was featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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  4. it must be anonymous says:

    Erik was likable and informed. The two hours were a total waste of time. As a member of numerous previous search committees I had to take the “real” implicit bias test and I enjoyed doing it. It was useful. And I had the freedom to take the test when I wanted: it took about one hour of my evening time. Much better solution.

    My cynical (but informed) view is that someone in the Division of Equity and Inclusion is setting up these meetings to show that something is happening, and to pad out the resume.

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    • uomatters says:

      I’m shocked to hear of your cynicism. Next you’ll be proposing that we should take away some of the VPEI’s $3.5M budget and divert it to student scholarships, instead of administrator salaries and consultants to develop IDEAL plans and DAPs.

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      Rating: +4 (from 6 votes)
      • Still cynical, and way, way more informed than the "more informed" says:

        Bill, I would very much welcome the use of some of the VPEI’s $3.5M in fellowships for low income and minority students; to be precise for those students that are struggling in class because they are spending their time working in a job (to pay high tuition) instead of studying.

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        Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
      • just different says:

        Money is hardly the only barrier facing marginalized students, and sometimes it’s not a barrier at all. I’m still wondering exactly what UO Matters (or UO Matters readers) thinks would be an effective way to address diversity and inclusion issues at UO.

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        • uomatters says:

          We need statewide SAIL to recruit low-SES and otherwise under-represented Oregon high school students and get them college-ready, and Pathways to subsidize and give them mentoring support while at UO. Plus extra money to put them in dorms for first year or two at UO. That’s important for retention.

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          • less cynical, more informed says:

            Are there data regarding time-in-dorm and retention of low-SES students? Does it matter which type of dorm community?

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          • just different says:

            The only issue I have with “mentoring support” is that it essentially outsources responsibility for giving all students the same chance to succeed. A stark example of this is the way the AEC is structured to allow–if not outright encourage–faculty to be completely ignorant of the needs of students with disabilities. “Supporting” these students in the classroom essentially becomes about minimizing inconvenience to the faculty. Shouldn’t it be part of a professor’s job to at least have some idea of the various challenges students from different backgrounds face?

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    • less cynical, more informed says:

      The new provost and also CAS declared that in-person workshops were mandatory for search committees this year. The only resume being padded is Erik’s, which seems okay since he does such a great job! My understanding is that he’s been doing these for years, and is just hosted by DEI. Most reviews are pretty positive.

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      • it must be anonymous says:

        Erik (who probably was paid?) was not the one organizing the 2 hours of endless examples of (and activities on) implicit bias. Look at the email sender and see who was getting the cv padded out!

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