A response to recent articles

21st October 2021

Recent articles from various news outlets have strongly criticised a university’s decision to make one of its Diversity and Inclusion courses compulsory for its students to take.

As creators of the course and its content, we are keen to respond to this criticism.  The module is designed as an awareness-raising tool. Its focus is to ask people to respect and value one another’s views and experiences even if they are different. Unlike the article states, the intention of the course is not to bring about ‘guilt’ for students about bias, but rather be more open-minded about who they give opportunities to, who they spend time with, and reflect on the impact of their behaviours. Working and studying with people from different backgrounds enriches experiences and leads to innovation and creativity.

We are disappointed that constructive and well-intentioned training is misconstrued and misrepresented as some kind of intrusive “bias test” which users must comply with or face sanction. The fact that these articles take issue with students being instructed to take courses on anti-bullying, anti-racism, and climate change, is alarming. We must stay informed on these topics and continuously reflect on our ideologies, thoughts, and behaviours.

Concepts of prejudice and stereotypes are far from just an ‘opinion’, and they are often negatively reinforced by many media outlets. Our courses are designed to inspire open conversation about real issues that occur every day; we welcome debate but we cannot accept criticisms of the value of Diversity and Inclusion training.

Our Head of Diversity, Ann Allcock, believes that these courses make for better working environments: “The many organisations (including universities) that offer diversity and inclusion training know and appreciate that if we recognise that bias exists and that if we take time to better understand people who come from different backgrounds or have different experiences to our own, this will help create supportive, happy and productive environments for work and study – surely that is a positive thing and I can’t see why it would be considered at all controversial or harmful.”

With regards to the testing element of the course, Ann states that “the purpose of the ‘test’ at the end of the module is to ensure that learners have thought about the content.  This is not about ‘policing’ the answers but about encouraging engagement with the subject matter”

The fact the number of student complaints is so low is a good indicator that the vast majority are open-minded people who are willing to engage and learn about the importance of diversity and inclusion.

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