Vanderbilt is committed to fostering a culture of inclusion and care where every community member feels supported and experiences a strong sense of belonging. As part of this commitment, university leaders are actively working to mitigate the effects of unconscious bias, along with implementing new educational opportunities for community members to meaningfully engage with this issue.
Engaging Senior Leadership
Vanderbilt University’s senior leaders came together Aug. 28 for a daylong education workshop on unconscious bias. The session, which included Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente, deans, vice chancellors and senior staff, was conducted in support of the university’s commitment to embody the values of equity, diversity and inclusion and foster a culture of respect and belonging across campus. This workshop will be followed by the Train the Trainer sessions being planned for fall 2019.
“To fulfill our commitment to foster an inclusive and equitable community, we must continue to learn, grow and challenge our own perceptions and biases. Only by doing so will we be able to truly access the power of the many diverse experiences and perspectives that comprise our great university.” – Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente
“Whether it be when we are developing hiring committees, research teams, systems or strategic decisions, we must be intentional about addressing the ways unconscious bias can compromise our success as individuals and as a community. As Vanderbilt continues to build an increasingly diverse community, we must also be just as committed to mitigating bias and creating an environment that supports, respects and includes all.” – Interim Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer André L. Churchwell
Train the Trainer Sessions
In Oct. 2019, the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the provost’s Office for Inclusive Excellence hosted an intensive, four-day unconscious bias workshop for 16 faculty and staff members, equipping them to support others in fostering a culture of care, respect, inclusion and belonging at Vanderbilt. The “train-the-trainer” program provided participants with the skill set necessary to facilitate unconscious bias trainings with groups across campus in the coming months.
The university provides unconscious bias training as part of all faculty searches. The university has also offered various faculty development workshops, including IMPACT Leadership Development Series, NCFDD (National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity) – based webinars. Additionally, the university continues to develop, facilitate and evaluate programs designed to provide all faculty members at all stages of their careers with the tools and opportunities needed to succeed and flourish at Vanderbilt.
Diversity Liaison Committee
Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Dr. André L. Churchwell has established a new diversity liaison committee charged with helping to foster equity, diversity and inclusion within each functional area at Vanderbilt. The committee was created to support the university’s efforts to build a culture of inclusion, respect and belonging across campus.
The 24-member committee is comprised of staff representatives from the Division of Administration, the Division of Communications, Donor and Alumni Relations, Government and Community Relations, the Office of Investments, Finance, Vanderbilt Athletics, the Office of the General Counsel and Information Technology.
Support, Resources and Community
A key part of the Office for Inclusive Excellence’s vision is to foster an intentional sense of belonging and affirmation for all students and faculty. The office collaborates on and spearheads initiatives that assist faculty and students in forging and maintaining social connections, as well as works to create an atmosphere that invites and encourages the engagement of the broad array of faculty and students.
The Office of Faculty Affairs prioritizes supporting faculty success by fostering an open, inclusive community and creating a culture of relevant, accessible, and comprehensive professional development, including trainings for school and department-level administrators that provide actionable strategies for continually developing welcoming and diverse academic communities.
The Center for Teaching provides a broad array of resources for faculty members related to inclusion, including how to create accessible learning environments, how to increase inclusivity in the classroom, how to teach about various identity groups, and more.
The vision of the Student Center for Social Justice and Identity is to provide a comprehensive service of inclusion and cultural engagement that facilitates the creation of an institution dedicated to all forms of racial, cultural, gender, religious, ability, and sexual identity expression. The office seeks to do this by equipping the Vanderbilt community with the tools necessary to be to effective agents of social change in an increasingly diverse world.
The mission of the Black Cultural Center (BCC) is to enhance the Vanderbilt experience of Black students, faculty, and staff by providing effective programming and resources to address the academic, cultural, well being and social needs of the community.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Life at Vanderbilt University is a cultural center and a place of affirmation for individuals of all identities, and a resource for information and support about gender and sexuality. LGBTQI Life serves all members of the Vanderbilt community — students, faculty, staff, and alums — by creating educational, cultural, and social opportunities. The office regularly offers the P.R.I.D.E. (Pursuing Respect, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity) program, which aims to create a visible network of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) individuals and their allies by providing an avenue through which any member of the Vanderbilt Community can show their support. The training is 3 hours and happens 2-3 times per semester.
For over forty years, the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center has been an affirming space for all members of the Vanderbilt community that acknowledges and actively resists sexism, racism, homophobia, and all forms of oppression while advocating for positive social change. The center offers a broad array of resources and educational programming.
The Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life supports the spiritual and religious growth of all Vanderbilt community members while encouraging the ongoing development of interfaith literacy and dialogue. The office works to develop spiritually thoughtful leaders equipped to positively influence a religiously pluralistic world.
Unconscious bias (or implicit bias) is often defined as prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person, or group as compared to another, in a way that is usually considered unfair. Many researchers suggest that unconscious bias occurs automatically as the brain makes quick judgments based on past experiences and background. As a result of unconscious biases, certain people benefit and other people are penalized. In contrast, deliberate prejudices are defined as conscious bias (or explicit bias). Although we all have biases, many unconscious biases tend to be exhibited toward minority groups based on factors such as class, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, nationality, religious beliefs, age, disability and more.
Combatting Unconscious Bias
Participating in workshops, seminars, on-line courses and webinars are just a few ways individuals can learn more about unconscious bias and how to combat it. Holistic training includes information about how such biases can be identified and combated by individuals, groups, organizations, and in society at large. Training should also include information about structural dynamics in society that perpetuate unconscious biases. Practical strategies will help individuals combat unconscious bias in their personal and professional lives.
Some Benefits of Combating Unconscious Biases
Benefits are numerous and can include: increased group innovations, productivity, and creativity; enhanced relationship- and community-building; and, greater inclusion, equity and appreciation for diversity.
Some Strategies to Mitigate Unconscious Bias
- Learn as Much as Possible About Unconscious Bias…and Ways to Combat It
- Tell Your Story…and Listening to the Stories of Others
- Avoid Stereotypes and Over-Generalizations
- Separate Feelings from Facts
- Have a Diverse Group of People around the Decision-Making Table
- Engage in Self- Reflection to Uncover Personal Biases
- Develop Safe and Brave Spaces to Discuss Unconscious Bias
- Be an Active Ally
- Don’t Expect a Quick Fix
- Practice Empathy
Examples of Past Vanderbilt Resources or Existing Workshops and Courses that Reference Unconscious Bias
- “Little Things Mean A Lot Workshop,” sponsored by the Equal Employment Opportunity
- “Card Project,” a game-based tool developed by Leah Lomotey-Nakon
- “Alphabet Soup” seminar sponsored by EAD
- Everyday Bias training provided by the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
- Discussion of Implicit Bias in Education and Policy in the Peabody Master of Public Policy in Education program, presented by Jason Grissom and Marisa Cannata
- “Cultural/Racial Diversity and Effective Communications” training by VUPS
- “General Order 3.14 – Bias Based Racial Profiling” required by VUPS
- “Anti-Bias Curriculum, Activities, Celebrations, and Behaviors” provided by Child & Family Center
- “Our Minds as Icebergs: Understanding the Effects of Implicit Biases in Everyday Decisions” presented by Efrén Pérez and sponsored by the Office of the Provost
- Faculty Resources of Webinars/trainings provided by Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
- PSCI 3250 Group Conflict and Cooperation in U.S. Politics
- PSY-PC 2300 Social and Emotional Context of Cognition
- LAW 6062 Life of the Law
- NURS 6091 LGBTI Health in Inter-professional Practice
Literature on Unconscious Bias
- Systemic Factors that Influence Unconscious Bias and Other Forms of Inequality
Joe Feagin. 2013. The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-
Framing (2nd Edition). New York: Routledge.
- Roxane Gay. 2015. The New York Times. “Of Lions and Men: Mourning Samuel DuBose and Cecil the Lion” (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/01/opinion/of-lions-and-men-mourning-samuel-dubose-and-cecil-the-lion.html?_r=0)
- Jason Silverstein. 2013. The Atlantic. “How Racism Is Bad for Our Bodies” (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/03/how-racism-is-bad-for-our-bodies/273911/)
- Often Over-looked Minority Challenges
Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin. 2015. The Myth of the Model Minority (2nd edition). Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.
- Women’s Challenges and Responses around Biases
Debra M. Easterly and Cynthia S. Ricard. “Conscious Efforts to End Unconscious Bias: Why Women Leave Academic Research”
- Patricia Hill Collins. 1990. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the
Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge.
- Kimberle Crenshaw. 1991. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics,
and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review 43 (6): 1241-1299.
- Identifying and Combating Micro-Aggressions
Wing Sue. 2010. Microaggressions and Marginality: Manifestation, Dynamics, and
Impact. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.
- Wing Sue. 2010. Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual
Orientation. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.