Give the implicit bias module the resources to succeed

For the implicit bias module to have its intended effects, students and Resident Advisors need to have the appropriate resources to fully participate

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Members of the Class of 2021 gathered for Convocation. 

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

The University administration recently decided to require that all first-year students complete an implicit bias module starting next Fall. The module, piloted by students living in Dillard residential dorms, was originally intended to be completed before their arrival on-Grounds. However, the administration later determined to partner with Housing and Residence Life for students to take the test on-Grounds. This affords new students the opportunity to discuss their results with their Resident Advisors. Providing the opportunity for students to discuss their results with their Resident Advisor is important, because these conversations about race and bias are desperately needed. Given the nature of the topic, discussions surrounding implicit bias can be uncomfortable, and Resident Advisors need to have the appropriate training to effectively moderate and answer any questions students may have. 

It is important for the University to provide guidelines ensuring that all Resident Advisors are properly trained to facilitate that conversation. Training Resident Advisors to facilitate conversations provide students the opportunity to reflect on their biases and how they may come into play in their everyday lives. When investigating these subconscious biases, students need to have someone available who is able to understand their results and the associated implications. Especially in the aftermath of the events of Aug. 11 and 12, we must ensure these conversations take place and are guided constructively. This is an incredibly sensitive issue and should be treated as such by the University administration. If the administration fails to provide the resources for Resident Advisors to have these discussions, they not only do a disservice to the Resident Advisor, but also to the students who deserve guidance when they are expected to participate in a discussion about such an important topic. 

To make the best of this module and the opportunity it provides, the University should have first-year students attend a talk about implicit bias, in addition to tasking Resident Advisors with discussing implicit bias with their residents. The University originally planned to have Dean of Students Allen Groves discuss the implicit bias module with students during orientation. The University should consider pursuing a similar program to orient the entire incoming class on the importance of understanding implicit bias, in much the same way that the Green Dot Orientation serves to educate first-years about sexual assault prevention. Students should have the opportunity to talk with professionals who are more knowledgeable and better equipped to discuss implicit bias with students, in addition to the conversations with their Resident Advisor. 

By mandating the completion of this module, the University administration requires students to undergo a self-examination where their perceptions of themselves and their biases are challenged. If the administration institutes this module, it should also ensure that Resident Advisors are informed enough to speak to students about their results. The University administration should do more than disseminate the module — it should ensure that a productive discussion occurs afterwards. While the module draws attention to implicit biases among students, it's more important to ensure that students reflect on these realizations.

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