Mandatory anti-discrimination training nothing to fuss about
Almost one year ago, the Idaho State Legislature considered legislation that would have allowed business owners, teachers and medical practitioners to openly discriminate based on religious beliefs under the protection of the law.
As 2014 draws to a close, it seems the days of discrimination, harassment and ignorance should be long gone. For many people they are, but the reality is that there are still too many who don’t understand the implications of their actions. People continue to face discrimination battles on a daily basis, even in 2014 and especially in Idaho.
University of Idaho President Chuck Staben recognizes this problem and is requiring all UI employees to complete a training program by March 31 to address discrimination and harassment in the workplace. If employees fail to complete the training, they will not be eligible for a merit pay increase next year.
Extra training sessions — no matter what they’re for — are almost always greeted with complaints. “Why do I need to do this?” “I don’t discriminate,” “This is a waste of my time” and “I could be getting actual work done,” are just a few of the sentiments that usually accompany these sorts of mandates.
While this is just one more thing to cram into the already busy schedules of faculty, staff and administration, the necessity for such training is clear.
Whether it’s intentionally discriminatory or not, the language people use, the jokes they make and the actions they take can impact others in ways they may not foresee. It is easy to project one’s own perspectives, aversions and sense of humor on others. It is easy to simply not realize how certain actions affect other people.
But any sort of discrimination — whether it’s based on sexual orientation, race, gender, socio-economic status or any other social construct — is wrong, intentional or unintentional.
The training required by Staben serves as an educational tool and a refresher for everyone, including those who place their own privileges and needs above others and those who’ve already moved past days of discrimination and harassment by recognizing their own priveleges.
UI employees should take the 35-minute training seriously and without complaint if they truly want to be a part of the change this state needs for progress.
UI prides itself on being a place for forward thinkers, open discourse and a safe, productive learning environment for all. However, in a state like Idaho — where only one year ago the government seriously considered legalizing discrimination — it’s evident UI is not leading the way to a more inclusive state, nor is it producing the leadership the region needs to stop discrimination.
Maybe with this mandated training as the first step, UI can make a difference.