All faculty required to pass “Living Inclusively” course with a grade of at least 80%
Classroom activities include the “privilege walk”
Capstone project requires a personal social justice action plan
Dec. 10, 2018 | MacIver News Service
By: Bill Osmulski
If you want to teach at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC), you’d better have a plan on how you’ll push the social justice agenda in your classroom. It’s a non-negotiable job requirement.
This is the capstone project for the school’s professional development course, “Living Inclusively.” All faculty members (including part-time) at NWTC are required to successfully complete that course within their first few years on the job.
According to the syllabus, that final project is “a written reflection that reviews the work completed in Living Inclusively and your Experiential Learning Project that includes a future action plan in your role at NWTC.”
That means students in all disciplines, from accounting to welding, can expect to be bombarded with the liberal social justice agenda in the classroom while attending NWTC. (All associate’s degree students at NWTC are also required to take “Introduction to Diversity Studies” as part of their general studies requirements.)
This social justice instruction requirement is not entirely unique to NWTC. The Wisconsin Technical College System requires teachers at all its schools to participate in the Faculty Quality Assurance System (FQAS). That includes professional development in seven core competencies, including “Embracing Diversity.”
Each college has the flexibility to determine how it will meet the FQAS requirements and what to do with employees who do not complete them. The Tech College System does not track how each college completes these requirements or the results, according to Conor Smyth, WTCS Strategic Advancement Director.
NWTC completes the “Embracing Diversity” competency requirement by having all faculty take the “Living Inclusively,” course. MacIver News learned about this program through an open records request, while investigating NWTC’s annual white privilege conference and related activities.
Living Inclusively is a 20-hour course broken into four class sessions. As faculty members work towards their capstone projects, they address bias, race, ethnicity, prejudice, social discrimination, institutional discrimination, ethnocentrism, stereotypes, minority groups, dominant groups, racism, equity, and equality. One of the key classroom activities is the “privilege walk.”
According to the instructor packet, “By illuminating our various privileges as individuals, we can recognize ways that we can use our privileges individually and collectively to work for social justice.”
However, the packet warns not to try this activity unless the class is well on its way to becoming indoctrinated.
“This is a very ‘high risk’ activity that requires trust building and safety for participants; introducing this activity too early in the training or before building trust risks creating resentment and hurt that can inhibit further sharing and openness,” it explains.
During the privilege walk, the instructor reads a series of statements. After each one, students take a step forward or backward depending on their personal response. The statements include: “If you are a white male, take one step forward,” “If you grew up in an urban setting take one step backward,” and “If English is your first language take one step forward.”
Anyone who values their job has a strong incentive to keep their mouth shut and just play along. It takes a final grade of 80 percent to past the course, which is a requirement for employment at NWTC.
The school has never fired anyone for failing to complete a FQAS requirement, according to its human resources department. It simply gives those individuals special attention and makes them keep trying.
“We have had individuals essentially receive an ‘incomplete’ where we worked with them to meet the competencies on an extended time period outside of the class dates,” Lisa Maas, VP of HR, told MNS. “We can and do work with them directly when difficulties arise.”
After completing the “Living Inclusively” course, employees are encouraged to take additional diversity courses as electives to satisfy their ongoing professional development requirements.