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U. Penn Faculty Must Undergo Implicit Bias Training Before Serving on Hiring Committees

Raises concerns about academic freedom, pseudoscience.

PennBruce Andersen / Wikimedia CommonsAll faculty members who serve on hiring committees at the University of Pennsylvania must undergo subconscious bias training, The Daily Pennsylvanian reports.

"We thought that was a good place to start," Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, a professor in the Dental school, told the student newspaper. "I think that this will go a long way to making an inclusive environment which will only further enhance all the scholarship and education that occurs here."

It's unclear exactly what this training will look like. The university's Perelman School of Medicine already offers anti-bias workshops run by a private consulting firm.

In any case, forcing faculty members to submit to such training raises important concerns. For one thing, the science of subconscious or implicit bias is far from settled. It's probably true that most people have unconscious biases they should work toward overcoming, but the tools we have for measuring these biases aren't nearly as reliable as some psychologists have claimed. (The implicit association test increasingly looks like junk science.)

Subconscious bias is often cited as the cause of microaggressions: small acts of unintentional malice perpetrated against members of disadvantaged groups. Preventing the spread of microaggressions is now a top concern of many campus activists and administrators. But it isn't clear that microaggressions actually bother any significant number of marginalized people—many said in a survey that they were not offended by the proposed microaggression.

Campus diversity administrators probably love bias and microaggression training workshops because these are tangible things they can point to and say look, we're doing our jobs, spreading diversity. Given the amount of money these public employees make—often more than $100,000—I can see why they would feel the need to justify their positions. Of course, one team of researchers turned up no evidence that hiring a chief diversity officer had a positive effect on campus diversity numbers.

The nature of implicit bias and the existence of microaggressions might be interesting subjects for classroom discussion in certain departments. But I am unconvinced that workshop-quality implicit bias training is sufficiently advanced beyond pseudoscience. Requiring the hiring committee to enroll in it is a blow to academic freedom without any obvious benefit.

Photo Credit: Bruce Andersen / Wikimedia Commons

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  • MiloMinderbinder||

    Party of Science!

  • JesseAz||

    Psuedo science*

  • Uncle Jay||

    Academic freedom is not allowed in our re-education camps here in the Union of Soviet Socialist State of America, an pseudoscience is what makes a lot of professors of gender studies and climate change a lot of money through tax payer paid grants.
    So let's not rock the boat.
    Just conform and get with the program.
    That's the socialist way.
    Otherwise bad things will occur.

  • Just Say'n||

    "Both sides" he told us as he was being led into the camp. His once perfectly sculpted hair was now a shaggy mess upon a defeated man. As he entered the camp, a resounding chorus of boos greeted him. When we asked him how he felt about the reception he received from the other inmates he shrugged and said "They're all Nazis, anyways. Why else would they be in a re-education camp?" The irony didn't seem to register with him. Later, when he sat down to lunch he endured even further ridicule as another inmate lobbed a handful of gruel at him, which splashed against his once regularly moisturized skin. "The jokes on them," he said as he wiped the gruel from his face. "Gruel is good for exfoliating. So they just did me a favor."

  • OverWandersTelcon-tarian||

    You know how else you could use > 100,000$ to benefit racial, religious and gender minorities...?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Many actual members of a racial, religious, or gender minority?

  • OverWandersTelcon-tarian||

    These guys literally subscribe to a magazine called Jacobin, and they still can't get the concept of reparations right.

  • Tony||

    The pseudoscience angle is the correct one. Thank you. The left is hardly immune to it. (Though they are far less consumed by it and thus dangerous about it. "Climate change is a hoax" is technically pseudoscience, even if it is incredibly brazen). Much better than the usual castration complex screeching that goes on with these things.

  • JesseAz||

    Tony... You've already admitted that the totality of your understanding of climate science is "media outlets say.". Sure you want to talk about science again? Hint... The climate models you worship have a warming sensitivity to carbon almost double what actual measurements say for the last 30 years. Over 3 dozen peer reviewed articles support that climate models suck.

  • Tony||

    I'm sorry you have victimized yourself by propaganda. We both have access to the same information. You simply choose to believe what fits your partisan narrative, and you aren't even apparently aware of it.

  • Ben of Houston||

    Well, Jesse, Tony isn't completely off. Anyone who says that it's a "hoax" is generally in the realm of pseudoscience, as are the ones who say that it's against the laws of thermodynamics. Don't forget, that due to extremists being louder than the norm, people tend to experience the worst that their opposition has to offer in great disproportion to the number of people that actually believe those extreme positions.

    That being said, saying that it is "greatly exaggerated" is quite in the realm of good science, and in my opinion, extremely justified. The media has hyped it even further beyond the highly exaggerated claims of the IPCC to the point that some people actually think that the world will end in 12 years due to 1.5C of warming.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    How else will they spot Nazis?

  • creech||

    DNA tests?

  • OverWandersTelcon-tarian||

    They look like one!

  • Dillinger||

    high cheekbones ... wait

  • Jerryskids||

    It's not pseudoscience, dominance displays are well known amongst most social animals. The details of the display itself doesn't matter, it's just the higher-status group member making sure that the lower-status group member knows his place in the pecking order. Just as the dominant male baboon might take a particular piece of food from a lesser male even though the food itself isn't particularly attractive, just to remind the lesser male who's the boss, degrading the lesser academics by forcing them to perform humiliating rituals is a simply a dominance display. A FYTW, if you will.

  • Ron||

    do they mean voluntary like China's voluntary internment retraining centers

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I doubt many strong liberal-libertarian universities -- let alone a private institution near the top of every ranking that doesn't involve "Young Earth" studies -- are in the market for pointers from Republicans or conservatives, who run schools into the ground every time they get control of a campus.

    Being backward, superstitious, and bigoted have consequences, especially in the context of education. Conservatives have more than a hundred third- and fourth-tier, nonsense-teaching, censorship-shackled goober factories to show for their efforts in education.

  • Sevo||

    "I doubt many strong liberal-libertarian universities"

    You type that as if it means something, asshole.
    Hint: It doesn't.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    You guys stick with Biola, Wheaton, Liberty, Ave Maria, Grove City, Hillsdale, Oral Roberts, and Lower Bumfuck Baptist.

    Your betters will continue to prefer the Ivy League, strong state universities, and colleges such as Williams, Reed, Carnegie Mellon, Amherst, and Swarthmore.

    Let's see how it turns out. I predict more of the same, which is decades of liberal-libertarian progress, progressive victory in the culture war, and conservatives muttering bitterly and inconsequentially about it.

    I prefer reason, science, liberty, diversity, education, tolerance, modernity, and inclusivity. I therefore welcome more American progress accomplished despite conservative wishes and efforts.

  • Eddy||

    That's right, Sevo, what's with your opposition to evolution?

    /sarc

  • Eddy||

    It occurs to me that when the government decides to ship off the "backward hicks" - you know, Republicans, libertarians, conservatives - to re-education camps, Artie's voice will be booming constantly over the public-address system, telling the inmates to let go of their unprogressive ways and embrace modernity.

  • Henry Buttal||

    The RALK AI is back. Must not be programmed at CMU, or or wouldn't be so weak an AI. Can't even past the Turing test...

  • Ben of Houston||

    I'll take universities that have a real conservative core, especially on the engineering side. UT, A&M, UH.

  • Lester224||

    I prefer M.I.T. personally. There may be too many liberals there, but they just have smarter people there and better research than UT, A&M and UH.

  • Lester224||

    CalTech is pretty good too.

  • Rich||

    All faculty members who serve on hiring committees at the University of Pennsylvania must undergo subconscious bias training, The Daily Pennsylvanian reports.

    "We thought that was a good place to start," Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, a professor in the Dental school, told the student newspaper.

    "Next, we'll move on to examinations in which each member is asked 'Is it safe?'."

  • Rich||

  • Dillinger||

    >>>It's unclear exactly what this training will look like

    subconscious bias training? include truckloads of MDMA

  • Longtobefree||

    Random thoughts:
    There is no such thing as microaggression
    Will there be continuing positive consent from the students in these group therapy sessions?
    Does anyone really care what happens on college campuses anymore?
    Do universities actually hire? I thought, from the news reports, that people just showed up and screamed 'sexual assault" at men, and held star chamber trials. Oh yes, and raised tuition.

  • Ben of Houston||

    Of course there is such a thing as a "microagression". Our parents called it "rudeness". The change in term just makes it seem more violent than it was in the past. If they called it what it is, then people would take it in reasonable stride. No one will protest against rude people.

  • cjcoats||

    Will the workshops deal with the well-known biases of hairism (bias against baldness) or heightism (bias against shortness)?

  • Eddy||

    Danny Devito is one lucky &^%%$#%.

  • Eddy||

    And at one point, so was Napoleon.

  • Rich||

    Well, is it Implicit Bias Training or subconscious bias training?

    There's a *huge* difference.

  • Longtobefree||

    The subconscious part is implicit - - - - - -

  • JesseAz||

    Implication bias is the contention we are subconsciously biased. Based on a test whose authors now walk back in it's accuracy of measuring bias. In other words... Psuedo science.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    In other words... Psuedo science.

    That criticism seems easy to disregard when aimed from the side that rejects science, embraces superstition, funds televangelists, relies on faith healers, and considers evolution a plot launched from the pits of hell.

  • Eddy||

    RAH RAH SIS BOOM BAH
    MY TEAM IS GOOD, HIP-HIP HOORAH!

  • Iation||

    Can we please find references at least a little more reliable than gossip tabloids like "the cut"?

  • Patrick Henry||

    Meh. I had to take this stuff at work. It may be BS, and everyone knew it, but it didn't do any harm other than waste time. I wouldn't say it "raises important concerns."

  • Art Gecko||

    "It's unclear exactly what this training will look like."

    It's obvious what this training will look like. It will teach them to exclude straight, white males.

  • Olga||

    We all tend to want t hire (or associate with) people most like ourselves. However, it in most group work environments you need a variety of points of view and skills to be successful. While implicit bias training, might not be the best way to go about it, there are some things to consider when hiring.

    At some IT companies, hiring managers would often look at people with degrees from prestigious school or a high GPA. However, many IT companies have started to have applicants take some basic tests in order to test their skills for the job. Often finding that a person without a degree or a degree from a less impressive school had more of the skills required to do the job. So that was a way to improve diversity and ensure that the best person was hired.

    In an academic environment, hiring a professor is in part a value judgement. You need someone who can teach certain classes, someone who has the social skills to work on committee, someone whose writing and research bring prestige to a University. For each opening for a professor in English or History there are likely a 100 or more qualified applicants. Probably most can do the basic required job. Deciding who to choose does come down to culture and values.

    Actually, conservatives have an easier time finding jobs as many religious universities are always looking for academic faculty that support a conservative religious mission and most people that pursue a PhDs tend to be liberal.

  • Ecoli||

    "most people that pursue a PhDs tend to be liberal."

    Is that because truth has a liberal bias?

  • Rob Misek||

    Implicit bias is the basis of evolution.

    Learned behaviour based on truth reality let's those species survive and evolve while others die off in extinction.

    What does it signify when our universities and society in general screen for and discard truth in favour of ideological dogma.

    Gender dysphoria is scientific heresy.
    Babies aren't human until we say they are.
    There is no truth, reality. Don't ask me why I believe that to be true.

  • Lester224||

    "Babies aren't human until we say they are."

    Fetuses aren't people until they have more brainwaves than a dead person. There, I corrected it for you.

  • Rob Misek||

    "Brainwaves" eh?

    By eight weeks babies have a central nervous system, senses, move and respond to touch.

    By nine weeks their vocal chords are developing and if you listen carefully might hear them scream as they're dismembered during abortions.

    But you say they're not human.

  • Jerry B.||

    So first you decide that there is such a thing as a "microaggression", then you teach people that they should be "triggered" by these hard-to-define-but-you-know-it's-got-to-be-there microaggressions, and then you require everyone to be trained to avoid these subconscious microaggressions so no one is triggered.

    Wouldn't it just be easier and cheaper to call bullshit on the whole thing?

  • Ecoli||

    How about some action taken against explicit bias in hiring? Universities have not morphed into left-wing echo chambers because of the merits of Marx.

  • Lester224||

    At my employer (large tech company) we have to undergo anti sexual harassment training, anti bribing government training, anti insider trader training etc. every year. Every bad thing that could embarrass the company or bring on a lawsuit, we have training for. It's a waste of time for most people. Maybe you could get legislation passed making it illegal to force employees to undergo such training in a publicly funded enterprise (I doubt you could get the votes). You can't do anything about it in a private company or college. U Penn is private. Sorry they get to do what they want. You can rail about it in the press, I guess for all the good it will do.

  • cheapmcmbelt||

    I agree!!! You can discuss with other side. That's how you learn and expand your view points. http://www.mkoutletfire.com/mi.....black.html

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