During Common Hour on Tuesday, students and staff crowded into Peirce Pub for implicit bias training lead by Lena Tenney, coordinator for public engagement for the Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University.
This training, entitled “Facilitating Conversations about Implicit Bias in Campus Programming,” is part of the Kirwin Institute’s Race and Cognition Program, which facilitates nationwide research-based training on implicit bias, structural racism and being an active bystander. These trainings emphasize the psychology of race perception. Organized by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI), the training was designed for ODEI and Residential Life (ResLife) affiliated student groups like Community Advisors (CAs) and Discrimination Advisor (DAs). Though the training was closed to the general public, all CAs, DAs and ODEI program house managers were invited. Staff members from ODEI and ResLife were also present, according to Timothy Bussey, assistant director of ODEI.
The Race and Cognition program facilitates these types of trainings for 3,000 to 4,000 people every year, according to Tenney. The program also puts out accessible academic publications such as the annual “State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review.” For Tenney, these trainings are just one aspect of promoting inclusivity on campus.
“Conversations around inclusivity have been happening for a long time, so this is … [something] that people can add to their already-existing tool belt,” they said. “With the idea that folks who are in these sort of leadership positions, folks who have responsibilities around campus climate, can be best equipped in order to navigate that, and that will end up serving everyone in the campus community.”
The talk was followed by a short Q&A session during which Tenney answered student questions about masculinity, colorism and white fragility. This session transitioned into a collaborative discussion among the remaining student leaders and staff. Afterward, Tenney praised the thoughtfulness of Kenyon students.
“I would say that the students were exceptionally engaged and very knowledgeable, and that if these are the student leaders that students are interacting with, that Kenyon has a lot of promise in what the student experience can be like,” they said.
For Tenney, a common takeaway in working with young people is that they often doubt that they can actually make a meaningful difference.
“Even when you learn strategies, sometimes people feel like their impact isn’t as big as they want it to be,” Tenney said. “But […] inability to change the entire world does not mean that someone is unable to change the world for someone.”