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Massive new diversity initiative at San Diego State combats faculty microaggressions, bias

San Diego State University is working on a massive new diversity effort that aims to combat faculty microaggressions, reduce bias, and increase diversity among new hires.

Campus leaders are creating a new diversity bureaucracy from among its faculty ranks to roll out the program, including a provost position as well as “professors of equity” to oversee the operation. They will be given reduced teaching loads and monetary compensation for their efforts, which will include training all faculty campuswide on various diversity and inclusion practices.

The diversity initiative was spelled out in an email to the campus community from J. Luke Wood, associate vice president for faculty diversity and inclusion at San Diego State.

“Some examples of trainings will include unconscious and implicit bias, racial/gender microaggressions, teaching practices for underserved students, cultural competency, and becoming a Hispanic serving institution,” Wood stated in his email.

The impetus for the initiative is a University Senate resolution approved in February 2018 “to create a campus-wide diversity plan,” according to the email from Wood, which added the resolution required individual diversity plans be developed for all academic and administrative divisions.

The faculty tapped as the diversity gurus will be trained and then are expected to train their peers on subjects such as “implicit bias and microaggressions in hiring,” Wood’s email stated.

Wood is no stranger to training educators on such matters. In 2017, he led a graduate-level “Black Minds Matter” course at San Diego State that aimed to teach future education professors how to confront oppression.

“It’s necessary for us to radically transform the way that educators view their role in education. We are, again, preparing educators to see their classrooms as sites for civil resistance,” Wood said in 2017.

As for the public university’s new faculty diversity initiative, the effort has met with some criticism from a former SDSU professor.

“SDSU is in for a rough sleigh ride,” professor emeritus of biology Stuart Hurlbert told The College Fix. “Our new president has a long record of aggressively supporting identity politics and under-the-table mechanisms for implementing race and sex preferences in hiring and student admissions.”

Hurlbert is referring to San Diego State’s relatively new president, Adela de la Torre, who took the helm of the campus in June 2018. Prior to that, she served as vice chancellor for student affairs and campus diversity at UC Davis.

“From Wood’s ominous announcement it is clear that only faculty members who pass certain political litmus tests or who accept ‘political re-education’ will be allowed to serve on faculty search committees — or for that matter, to serve as department chairs or deans,” Hurlbert said.

Meanwhile, five faculty have been tapped as “Professors of Equity in Education,” Wood told The College Fix in an interview.

According to Wood, the initiative’s training costs from now until June equates to about $13,000 on top of the compensation faculty will receive for leading the effort.

When asked about his goals for the initiative, Wood told The College Fix that he wanted to be responsive to President de la Torre’s vision for more diversity at the university.

He also said he wants to better prepare educators to engage students from a wide array of backgrounds by hiring faculty that is proportionally representative of diversity to the student population in terms of items such as race, sexual orientation and religious beliefs.

MORE: ‘Black Minds Matter’ prof trains future educators to use ‘classrooms as sites for civil resistance’

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About the Author
Drew Van Voorhis -- San Diego State University