Remediating Campus Climate: Implicit Bias Training is Not Enough

Abstract

A common remedial response to a culture of racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of oppression on college campuses has been to institute mandatory implicit bias training for faculty, staff and students. A critical component of such training is the identification of unconscious prejudices in the minds of individuals that impact behavior. In this paper, I critically examine the rush to rely on implicit bias training as a panacea for institutional culture change. Implicit bias training and the notion of implicit bias it is grounded in is examined and the advantages and limitations of this approach is elaborated. An exclusive focus on implicit bias, it is argued, can protect ignorance rather than correct it. Similar to implicit bias, microaggressions is a concept that has played a role in campus diversity interventions. An examination of microaggression education demonstrates how it corrects for some of the pitfalls of relying on the concept of implicit bias to improve campus climate. The ambiguity that is characteristic of microaggressions, however, hints at the need to explore the type of “unknowing” that both implicit bias education and microaggression education attempt to remedy. Building on the recent scholarship around the idea of epistemic injustice, crucial insights can be gleaned about the significance of shifting the focus from lack of knowledge to a willful resistance to know. In the final section, some implications for improving campus climate are drawn out.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/theta-tau-syracuse-suspended_us_5ada2db6e4b00a1849cf1767.

  2. 2.

    http://cusecommunity.syr.edu/controls/email_marketing/admin/email_marketing_email_viewer.aspx?sid=1632&eiid=3699&seiid=3117&usearchive=1&puid=98e5d85f-d2a9-4f64-9431-b5048d17f256&gid=2&pgid=61; https://ischool.syr.edu/articles/news/view/message-ischool-community-dean-liddy-4-20-18/ It should be noted that after students and faculty wrote letters protesting that implicit bias training is insufficient to correct behaviors that are deeply rooted in systemic oppression, the university took further steps to address issues around diversity and inclusion on campus more deeply. http://religion.syr.edu/news-items/2018/2018.04.20-response-campus-incident-cultural-climate.html.

  3. 3.

    https://www.aacu.org/liberaleducation/2016/fall/davies.

  4. 4.

    https://trainingindustry.com/articles/performance-management/implicit-bias-in-the-workplace/.

  5. 5.

    Faigman, D. L., Kang, J., Bennett, M.W., Carbado, D. W., Casey, P., Dasgupta, N., Godsil, R.D., Greenwarld, A.G., Levinson, J. D. & Mnookin, J. (2012). Implicit bias in the courtroom. UCLA Law Review 59(1124). https://repository.uchastings.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2315&context=faculty_scholarship.

  6. 6.

    https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/department-justice-announces-new-department-wide-implicit-bias-training-personnel.

  7. 7.

    http://www.newsweek.com/nypd-start-implicit-bias-training-three-years-after-eric-garners-death-790248.

  8. 8.

    Subtle and covert that in the eyes of the perpetrator.

  9. 9.

    http://itooamharvard.tumblr.com.

  10. 10.

    https://www.chronicle.com/article/Campaigns-Against/231459.

  11. 11.

    My use of the terms “dominant” and “marginalized” is strategic and not intended to essentialize or homogenize. I maintain that to appeal to intersectionality when dominant norms and frameworks operate through their invisibility risks further masking the workings of those norms and frameworks. A more complicated and intersectional version of the current argument is a project for a future paper.

  12. 12.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/18/starbucks-misguided-racism-workshops.

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Correspondence to Barbara Applebaum.

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Applebaum, B. Remediating Campus Climate: Implicit Bias Training is Not Enough. Stud Philos Educ 38, 129–141 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-018-9644-1

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Keywords

  • Implicit bias
  • Microaggressions
  • Epistemic injustice
  • Higher education