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Does ‘diversity training’ work? Nobody can say

It’s an easy question. Why can’t it be answered?

George Washington University will soon force all of its freshmen to attend diversity workshops as part of their introduction to campus life. This new program—which involves the usual banal assortment of “skits” and small-group discussions—was created in response to a racist snapchat photo from earlier this year. It is funny how that works: A single stupid and ignorant social media post can birth an entire new lucrative campus apparatus. It’s like some terrible form of alchemy.

Here at The College Fix we do journalism, and the basic premise of any sound journalism is fact-gathering. That’s what we do, we find and report facts. One fact that has eluded us, however, is: What evidence do campus administrators have that diversity training actually works? What evidence-based programs and studies do administrators draw from when creating their “skits?” Is there any indication that the generally insipid group-talk framework of the diversity machine will actually change anyone’s minds about anything?

Nobody on campus is willing to say, which suggests the answer is a big fat no. So it is understandable that everyone is reluctant to talk about it. But it actually makes sense that the campus diversity industry consists largely of hot air. The premise of the whole charade—that a few poorly-acted sketch routines, a talk about LGBTQ identity politics and a group discussion about microagressions will somehow stamp out bigotry, if it was even there to begin with—is self-evidently silly. In the rare instances where an authentic racist, sexist or homophobe attends one of these events, it is profoundly unlikely that it will change his mind at all. And given that an overwhelming majority of modern university students are pretty much onboard with everything taught at these programs anyway, the question arises: What exactly is the point?

The cynical answer is “money.” There is a lot of money to be made in the diversity industry. Less cynically but no less conclusively, we can assume that most administrators do diversity because they feel like they have to be doing something, particularly in the face of militant, unbending student progressivism. In either case, the uselessness of “diversity training” is pretty much self-evident; if a freshman at George Washington University isn’t aware of the pointlessness of it all when he arrives, he will surely be aware of it when he leaves.

MORE: STUDY: Forcing diversity on students has negative effects

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