UJC members take implicit association test to recognize potential biases in disciplinary action

Members chose which tests they wanted to take, including topics such as racial and gender bias

IMG_1131

At their meeting Sunday, UJC Members discussed the implications of implicit bias in their role as adjudicators for students who violate the University's Standards of Conduct. 

Nik Popli | Cavalier Daily

During its general body meeting Sunday night, the University Judiciary Committee gathered to discuss the importance of recognizing implicit biases when investigating and trying potential violations of the University’s Standards of Conduct — which address behavior such as the damage of or unlawful entry onto University property, disorderly conduct on University property or the violation of state or federal laws.

Implicit bias is a term that refers to attitudes or prejudices individuals possess which unconsciously impact their actions, decisions and understanding. It affects how individuals view others based on race, ethnicity, gender and other factors.

To begin the meeting, Kevin Warshaw, a fourth-year Engineering student and UJC Chair, asked members to participate in three different tests of their choosing created by Harvard University, which are referred to as the Implicit Association Tests. The Committee then split into small groups to discuss their results and how they can limit implicit biases in the future.

“Implicit bias is something that everyone has — it’s part of human nature — but that doesn’t mean that we have to accept it,” Warshaw said. “We can always change ourselves for the better and the goal of today’s activity was to motivate people to want to make those changes and hopefully that was achieved.”

The implicit bias test consisted of a word-picture pairing activity. Pictures of faces of white people and black people were briefly flashed on the screen. Students were told to press either a key on the left side of the keyboard every time they saw one of the types of faces or a key on the right side of the keyboard for the other.

Words were also flashed across the screen — positive descriptive words and negative descriptive words. In the first round, students were told to pair the positive descriptive words with one type of the faces by pressing the associated key on the keyboard each time they saw either the face or word.

The test measured the reaction time it took students to press the appropriate key after seeing a face or a word. The difference between the reaction time indicated where the student’s implicit bias are situated. For instance, if they were faster at linking negative words with black faces, the test suggests they are implicitly biased against African-American people.

Warshaw said the goal of the activity was not to measure implicit biases, but to encourage UJC members to take the next step towards confronting it.

The University began teaching all incoming first-year students about implicit bias in August 2012, and required all first-years to complete a SIS module on implicit bias starting in 2017.

Warshaw said UJC has been putting greater emphasis on implicit bias training and discussion so that members can be as fair and just as possible in trials.

“Implicit biases — being subconscious — is something that we need to be able to confront and address given that we serve in a disciplinary role within the University,” Warshaw said. “I’d say it’s especially important for our members to be aware of implicit biases and be aware of ways to counteract them.”

According to UJC’s most recent demographic survey in Spring 2017, 55 percent of accused students self-identified as Caucasian American, while eight percent as Asian-American and seven percent as African-American. However, this demographic information was collected through self-reporting and did not allow respondents to identify with multiple ethnicities, as well as lacked a Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander category. UJC recently updated their data system to allow demographic information to be pulled directly from SIS — which will be released in the future.

UJC will also release the results of its internal demographic survey next week. Dean of Students Allen Groves will be speaking to the Committee at its next general body meeting Nov. 18. 

related stories