University mandates implicit bias training for hiring committees

The University of Oregon now requires that professors serving on search committees for tenure-track positions first undergo an implicit-bias training.

According to the university’s news service, Provost Jayanth Banavar will require those serving on search committees for tenure-track positions, as well as certain administrative positions, to complete at-least one “Understanding Implicit Bias” workshop.

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“The workshops ought to be particularly important for those serving on search committees and the hiring managers,” Banavar remarked. “Understanding implicit bias will help us move forward successfully as a university and attract and retain diverse faculty, staff, and students of excellence.”

The workshops themselves, taught by Professor Erik Girvan, will “explore some harmful side effects of how our brains naturally perceive, categorize, and draw inferences about the world, including other people.”

“How can someone’s race, sex, age, and other characteristics influence the way we see and treat them even when we are genuinely trying to be unbiased?” and “what concrete steps can we take to help prevent this from happening?” are just some of the questions the workshops will address.

The workshop defines implicit bias, using information from “Project Implicit,” as the “thoughts and feelings that occur outside of conscious awareness or control,” offering a list of “shortcuts” in thinking that “lead to biased assessments,” such as making “snap judgements” or upholding “negative stereotypes.”

The upcoming workshops are not the first that the school has offered on the topic, with two February workshops introducing the subject and exploring “specific applications.”

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“Knowing about implicit biases is not enough to reduce it or keep it from impacting what we do,” a description for the February workshops claimed, noting that it would help participants “identify specific policies and practices in their workplace that are most likely to be affected by implicit bias” while brainstorming “concrete changes.”

Notably, those on a search committee must attend a workshop every three years, and while the school offers an online version of the program, only in-person attendance satisfies the new requirement.  

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