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Mandatory Microaggression Training

Suffolk announces new policy in wake of furor over a Latina student's report about how her instructor doubted her vocabulary.

November 2, 2016
 
Marisa J. Kelly

Suffolk University's acting president, Marisa J. Kelly, announced late Tuesday that all faculty members would be required to go through training about microaggressions, the stereotype-based comments and actions that many minority students and faculty members say regularly make them feel unwelcome in higher education and elsewhere.

Kelly's announcement came as educators continued to discuss a blog post by Tiffany Martínez, a Latina Suffolk student, in which she recounted how a professor doubted that her paper could be original because she used words such as "hence." Many Latino students, as well as others from minority or immigrant groups, responded to the post by saying that they too had experienced such treatment at colleges and universities all over the country. And they described how being doubted for no reason other than their ethnicity was painful and discouraging.

As word of Martínez's blog post spread on Friday, Kelly issued a statement in which she pledged to investigate, and to make sure that all students at the university feel valued and respected.

In Tuesday's statement, Kelly went further. She noted a series of recent hires and enhancements to various programs -- announced prior to the current controversy -- designed to support inclusiveness. But then she added that the issues raised by Martínez required more.

"Last week’s incident has made clear that these steps are not enough. There is more we can do," Kelly wrote. "The most immediate action we are working to organize is a microaggression training session for each academic department in the university. I have asked the Center for Teaching and Scholarly Excellence to work with the deans of each of our three schools to set up these sessions department by department. The training sessions will be required for all faculty at the institution over the course of this academic year, with planning and scheduling to begin immediately. Staff members will also be trained in the near future. While these sessions will not make us perfect, it is my hope that through training and open dialogue we will further foster a climate that is safe, supportive and welcoming to all."

Kelly said that the entire university should be concerned about how Martínez felt. Kelly did not name Martínez in the statement nor indicate the result of any investigation that has taken place so far.

"We must redouble efforts to create a more inclusive environment, while at the same time recognizing that everyone involved in any specific incident deserves a fair hearing," Kelly wrote.

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