Friday, January 18, 2019

First-years’ Experience Revised Diversity Orientation

KAT NAMON ’22

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Trinity’s Class of 2022 was introduced to a new form of diversity training this year. A change from previous years, the school decided to pair up with Visions, Inc., a team of trained consultants that specializes in helping communities create an environment where members from vastly different backgrounds can work comfortably together. This year’s program was a drastic change from the one the class of 2021 went through last September. Previously, the College brought in a group of improv actors to put on a skit that was intended to educate the students on how to properly handle diverse settings. However, due to the content of the skit, it angered more people than it educated. The sketch started off with a white woman reading a series of highly offensive slurs, followed by an older white man asking students how the skit made them feel. Some students walked out of the room because of their discomfort. Because of the event’s controversy and the reaction from students, SGA saw it as a point of discussion in following meetings. In addition to SGA, the issue was confronted by Dean of Students Joe DiChristina, and after some time it came to be known that the Office of Multicultural Affairs and then-Dean of Multicultural Affairs Karla Spurlock-Evans had not been asked or even aware of the program.   

The class of 2022 gathered in the Washington room in Mather Hall from 9:15 a.m. To 12 p.m. last Saturday morning where they heard from various TrinVisions consultants. Upon entering, each student was given a packet with the name of a TrinVisions employee that they would later meet with to put the skills they learned during the introductory seminar to work. The packets also included lists of social groups that have been historically excluded and others that have been historically included. Throughout the presentation TrinVisions employees asked students to take a minute to reflect on what they heard and speak about the information with the person next to them.

Once the beginning seminar concluded, students were directed to different rooms to meet with their smaller groups and designated a TrinVisions consultant. The groups consisted of 20 to 25 students and one consultant. Upon arrival to their separate locations, the students formed two circles, those on the inner circle stood facing those on the outer and students spent one minute talking to the student directly across from them. They were given questions to ask that prompted discussions about mutual respect and understanding. Some questions concerned socio-economic background, how students thought their upbringing affected the course of their lives, what they were taught to be afraid of or shy away from, and what makes them feel safe. After the one minute ran out, everyone switched partners and proceeded to introduce themselves, then continued with the same questions. At the end of the exercise students divided into groups of four and discussed various reflection questions on what was easy or hard about the activity. 

Students were responsive to the training and walked away with a better understanding of Trinity’s expectations regarding conduct in a diverse environment. In addition, reactions to the training program were far different than the ones recounted by members of the sophomore class.

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