Diversity Programs held a virtual culture workshop on Sept. 23.
The event, part of a series titled “How to Improve Your Campus Culture: An Overview of Micro-aggressions in the Academic Workplace,” was organized by Mamie Thorns, the special assistant to the president of Diversity Programs.
“The Cultural Competency Dialogues address improving the campus culture in matters relating to diversity,” Thorns said. “The virtual sessions address the physical, psychological and environmental effects of micro-aggressions in the workplace. The presenters then work with the participants to develop strategies to address and remove micro-aggressions from the workplace.”
The workshop was presented by Myron Anderson, the founding vice president for Inclusive Excellence at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Kathryn Young, a professor of secondary education at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
The main focus of the workshop was micro-aggressions.
“If you’re unfamiliar with the term,” Thorns said, “micro-aggressions are defined as a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously/unintentionally expresses a prejudice or stereotyping attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.”
To create a positive campus environment, it is important for students and staff to recognize that micro-aggressions exist, as well as to work on how to eliminate them, she said.
During the workshop, Young explained that micro-aggressions stem from implicit bias, or certain unconscious prejudices that people hold and become activated involuntarily.
“Micro-aggressions can show up in policies and procedures, and we need to do a deep dive to identify and eliminate them,” Thorns said. “We can do this at the classroom level, at the department level and at the university level. These workshops can help us to identify and eliminate those micro-aggressions.”
Thorns described her own experiences with micro-aggressions and the negative impacts of such prejudices.
“I’m originally from Mississippi,” Thorns said. “One example of a micro-aggression could involve a stranger learning that information and assuming that I am not educated because of stereotypes associated with people who grew up in the South. That … can lead to a toxic relationship, influence a job interview and isolate an individual in a negative way.”
She explained that eliminating micro-aggressions is beneficial to many.
“Eliminating those negative outcomes would be beneficial to everyone involved beneficial to the person who is being educated about understanding their own micro-aggressions and beneficial to the person who is suffering because of the micro-aggression,” she said.
During the workshop, Anderson stressed the importance of becoming informed of micro-aggressions, as well as educating others on the topic.
“If you know better,” Anderson said, “you can do better.”
Thorns said it is important to remember that, just because someone commits a micro-aggression, it does not make them a bad person.
“We all may be guilty of exhibiting micro-aggressions and not realize it,” Thorns said. “It means you would benefit from understanding how to identify those micro-aggressions and how to eliminate them.”
Students and staff can expect to see more sessions like this one later on in the semester.
“The participants in this latest session are indicating they want more,” Thorns said. “We are working on scheduling the next Cultural Competency Dialogue for this year.”
These topics can be difficult to talk about, Young said, but it is important to stay informed.
“The most important thing to do is to stay in the conversation and be super uncomfortable sometimes,” Young said.
To learn more about the top- ics covered in this event, Thorns recommended checking out Anderson and Young’s co-authored book, “Fix Your Climate: A Practical Guide to Reducing Micro-aggressions, Micro-bullying, and Bullying in the Academic Workplace.”