Student activists and their administrative enablers often demand that students, faculty and staff be forced to take diversity and inclusion training.
It sounds nice in theory, until …
American University student Riya Kohli, columnist for student newspaper The Eagle, shares her experience in the mandatory first-year course known as the American University Experience, or AUx.
It’s part of the private university’s two-year, $121 million “Plan for Inclusive Excellence.” Newly arrived students are “disheartened” that they have to spend “their first few semesters fulfilling tedious university requirements,” Kohli writes.
One of them – the “power, privilege, and inequality” course known as AUx2 – is particularly awkward:
For example, my class recently did an activity that involved putting beads of different colors in a cup. Each color represented a race/ethnicity and each bead correlated with an individual in your life, such as your best friend, your favorite teacher, etc. The purpose of this activity was unclear and the result was overall discomfort as everyone felt judged for having mostly one bead color filling their cup.
The activity failed in sparking any real conversation and instead stunted any will to volunteer our personal experiences. While my instructor and peer leader made a personal effort to clarify the activity in the following class, the fact that the exercise itself exists in the curriculum with little context goes to show the flaws it holds in its understanding of classroom dynamics.
Kohli scolds the administration for tying students’ grades to their willingness to have awkward conversations about race in a group of strangers, which “creates tension and stress in a dialogue where enough of both those things already exist.”
Because these discussions are “entirely fueled by who is having them,” the class is likely to be dominated by one racial group or to pit whites against nonwhites. “Either way, it is inevitable that someone in that group will feel alienated,” Kohli says:
It’s important that students are introduced to real world discussions about race and identities in ways they might have been oblivious to before heading to college. However, trying to fabricate an environment and hoping that every student somehow adapts to and feels comfortable prevents any real education.