29 thoughts on “Working Group F: A Required Educational Program for Faculty

  1. I wish the writers here were more focused on discussing if the faculty as a body bears responsibility to contribute to an equitable research and learning environment, and if not, why, and if so, what that responsibility might be.

  2. I would suggest discussions on racism that are not founded on critical theory–a theory founded on the hypothesis that all knowledge is socially constructed. Here is a movie about Daryl Davis your successfully combats racism one-on-one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OunVHCbHFhI and here is a link to the Foundation Against Indoctrination and Racism (FAIR): https://www.fairforall.org/join-us/ where Daryl Davis is on the Board of Advisors: https://www.fairforall.org/about/board-of-advisors/

  3. While I share some of the doubts expressed in previous comments about the effectiveness of making DEI training mandatory, at the same time, it baffles me that some consider the program to be an expression of “controversial political philosophy.” As I see it, the aim of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion is to promote justice. The alternative is to continue supporting white supremacy, at the expense of everyone who is not white. To me, this alternative course of action is not justifiable. It never was, and it especially isn’t now.

    1. I’m baffled that the writer is baffled. Does the writer believe that only one theory or conception of justice exists? The One, True theory, and that the writer has access to it, where others don’t, thus the need for coerced education? Surely someone from the philosophy department can set the record straight. And, yes, the mandatory — coerced — faculty programming is an expression of a “controversial political philosophy.” The fact that such a claim would be regarded as baffling is evidence of just how far that philosophy has taken hold of most universities. That is truly baffling.

  4. We need to ensure that we’re following the empirical evidence on what works in promoting racial justice.

    Some required training is ineffective at best because people just try to rush through it (or pay as little attention as possible) and at worst can lead to backlash effects, where the people who we might consider most in need of learning about systematic racism are angered by having to go through some forms of required training, double down, and end up with even more racist attitudes.

  5. In my my time at Cornell, I’m hard pressed to think of a time I agreed so wholehearted with Prof. Bensel! But, on this critical issues, he is spot on. Thank you for speaking up.

  6. The “anti-racism” program is a radical interpretation of a complex societal problem. For example, the shift from “equality” to “equity” has enormous implications, such as implying that any differential outcome by race is due to racism. Forcing everyone to write DEI statements is coercing them to accept such a radical view. I view the entire “anti-racism” movement as the wrong approach, and in fact one that will make race relations much worse.

  7. In their report, the committee proposes to require all faculty to attend a “educational program” in which they will be instructed in the committee’s understanding of “structural racism and how systemic bias and privilege work,” along with learning “how to discuss and act on a range of difficult issues.” Although at least some committee members would probably resist the parallel, this educational program is remarkably similar to a “reeducation camp” in which the central administration would instill what it believes to be correct political values. In order to enforce compliance with this program, the committee proposes that the central administration maintain a black list of those faculty who refuse to attend this camp because, they maintain, anyone who refused to attend must harbor opinions the committee does not accept. This black list would then be used to prevent all those who refused to attend from serving in “any positions of authority in a department, college, and at the university.” For example, if a faculty member refused to attend this camp because he or she believed that it infringed on their academic and intellectual freedom which, in turn, they believed should be at the very heart of any ethical and moral university community, the committee would authorize the central administration to put that colleague on this black list, thus enabling the central administration to discriminate against them in one of the major forms of “shared governance” (President Pollack’s term for faculty consultation although she is quoted in support of this report). I considered offering amendments to the committee’s proposal but ultimately decided that it was far too flawed. This proposal should just be firmly and overwhelmingly rejected. If it were to be, unfortunately, approved, I would like to serve notice that I wish to be placed at the very head of the committee’s black list because I will certainly refuse to cooperate in this attempt, once more, to discipline the faculty into corporate conformity.

    Richard Bensel


    1. If you believe that antiracism is a political belief, then I am glad that no more students will be subjected to your teachings. If you don’t believe in equitable treatment of all people then you don’t deserve to be teaching. That’s like saying that all societal morality is a forced concept and that we shouldn’t have to be nice, or treat people politely. Some things are unambiguously right or wrong, and treating people differently based on their race, or ignoring the reality that BIPOC people are disproportionately affected by policies which make it almost impossible to advance. 2 hours per semester is not a lot to ask. And if you were to make it voluntary, the people who will choose not to come will be the ones who need it most. Hopefully this new initiative will help to weed out the professors who are not empathetic and are more interested in research than teaching.

  8. Is it implausible to suppose a contradiction exists between the University’s decision to coerce participation in “anti-racist programming” and its recently-announced re-commitment to “academic freedom”?

    I will only speak for myself, but I can attest to believing some such contradiction exists. Would it be too much to ask those who support the programming to consider making participation voluntary? Why the need for coercion? Surely the University must realize that some members of the faculty will have good-faith objections to being coerced to participate — not only in programming promoting an “anti-racist” political philosophy but with programming promoting any political philosophy — but will not voice those objections for fear of being called “racists.”

    Of course, if the programming is limited to describing one’s obligations under existing anti-discrimination laws, as is the existing programming with respect to laws against sexual harassment, then the objection goes away. But so far as one can tell, the contemplated “anti-racist” programming will not be so limited.

  9. In the Faculty Senate, the leadership group was asked what qualifications would be expected for instructors of these required training courses, what would be the goals and metrics for each module, and what plan was anticipated for evaluating the effectiveness of the process relative to racism on campus. The posted materials do not seem to address these questions.

  10. A premise behind research training: “I can jeopardize the health of someone else in the lab if I screw up. Therefore, I want to be educated so as to minimize the chance of screwing up.”

    A premise behind DEI training: “I can jeopardize

  11. Now that the working group “will suggest that the educational program be required of all faculty,” what happens to a faculty member who refuses as a matter of conscience in the belief that such programming is political or ideological in nature?

    1. If the developed programming is hopelessly one-sided with mind control as an objective then I would say nothing should happen to a faculty member who follows their conscience and avoids participation. On the other hand, if the developed programming is educational, balanced in its presentation of alternative views, and respectful of faculty time, then non-participation cannot be defended on high moral grounds.

      1. The challenge, of course, is this. The above reply draws a very bright line — between “hopelessly one-sided mind control” and “educational” and “balanced” programming. That bright line is then used to cast doubt on those who might object on moral grounds to the required programming. Surely, the argument goes, it would be unpersuasive to object to “educational” and “balanced” programming on “high moral grounds.” One problem, naturally, is that what some faculty will experience as “educational” and “balanced,” others will experience as “mind control.” In addition, surely the most effective “mind control” is the sort that isn’t “hopelessly one-sided.” Surely the most effective mind control is the mind control that works without being recognized as mind control. And surely the most effective mind controllers understand that.

        At any rate, some would argue that any required programming, given that it described as “anti-racist” in nature, must necessarily reflect a commitment to a controversial political philosophy. Thus, even if the required programming is “educational” and “balanced,” using the threat of job termination to coerce anyone to learn about the political philosophy reflected in the required educational programming is, the argument goes, beyond the University administration’s proper jurisdiction. The University should not be making any institutional commitment to any contested and contestable political philosophy, let alone coercing faculty to learn about such a philosophy, no matter how “educational” and “balanced” is the “programming” to which faculty will be coerced — on the threat of job termination — to spend time listening.

      2. Is one therefore to believe that programming “balanced in its presentation of alternative views” would be programming that, alongside the “presentation of” the group-based theory of anti-racism, will also “present” the individual-based theory associated with classical liberalism? If so, then will the “balanced” programming amount to little more than an introduction to political theory, whether called that or instead described in contemporary euphemistic language? If so, why would that be something the University wants to compel faculty members to listen to, or perhaps even be compelled to speak in connection with?

    2. Probably the same thing that happens to a faculty member on campus who refuses to wear a face covering as a matter of conscience in the belief that such a mandate is political and ideological..


      1. If the above reply is intended as a counter-argument, it would presumably be that no meaningful distinction can be made between a faculty member being coerced to wear a face mask and being coerced to participate in required “anti-racist programming.” Therefore, because one can permissibly be coerced to wear a face mask, one can permissibly be required to participate in “anti-racist programming.”

        But surely a distinction can be drawn. When one is compelled to wear a face mask one is being asked to conform one’s actions to a University rule, even if one is a libertarian and objects to the rule as an impermissible infringement of one’s liberty. The University presumably does not care if one changes one’s beliefs. Its aim is to coerce conformity to its rule. Its aim isn’t to try to persuade one to change one’s beliefs, be they libertarian or otherwise. In contrast, it is hard to imagine what the point of the required “anti-racist programming” is if it isn’t to try to persuade one to change one’s beliefs in a way conforming to whatever political theory underlies “anti-racism.” One is therefore being coerced to submit to an effort to change one’s beliefs. If this distinction is persuasive, the counter-argument isn’t.

  12. I believe that making this a “required of all faculty” training component will be counter-productive and authoritarian, which is counter to our democratic principles. Forcing people to change by “checking a box” that they have completed mandatory training does NOT drive changes in behavior. It may satisfy the masses who are looking at Cornell but it will just be a facade.

    1. My worry about the program being counter-productive has to do with the provided resources not being of sufficient quality or interest. By “resource” i mean (for example) a 15 minute video on some specific topic that is then followed up with a group discussion. Suppose this is staged during a department meeting and that the chair insists on attendance. Would you regard that as “authoritarian”?

      1. The use of conclusory labels like “authoritarian” is probably not very helpful in seeing a basic objection to the required “anti-racist programming.” A basic objection is that faculty are being coerced to engage in some form of action presumably with the goal of changing their beliefs in some way. If that isn’t the goal, then one wonders what the point of the exercise would be. True, the goal is not to coercively induce belief. But the goal is to coerce action with the further goal of changing belief, through the various forms of programming, like “group discussions” with respect to which “the chair insists on attendance,” being contemplated. If one believes to be true the beliefs the required “anti-racist programming” is designed to produce, along with all the background beliefs such programming presumably presupposes, then one might believe such coerced action is permissible. After all, one has truth on one’s side. But if those beliefs, and the background beliefs supporting them, belong to a contested political philosophy, then one could fairly object to such coerced action.

        Now, one could deny that the beliefs “anti-racist programming” hopes to produce, along with their supporting background beliefs, are “political” in nature. That, of course, would depend on what one means by the word “political.” Addressing that question would take more time and space than presently available. Suffice it to say that agreement on the correct characterization of such programming, as “political” or not, is apt to be elusive.

  13. We should consider amending this proposal for “required programming” for faculty in at least two ways:

    Amendment 1: “Provided, That there may be no penalty for refusal to undergo “required programming.”

    Amendment 2: “Provided, That the creators of this “required programming” be required to come before the Faculty Senate and explain why they are qualified to instruct their colleagues on the proper way to think about these issues.”

    This is a matter involving freedom of thought that goes directly to the heart of academic freedom and should be thoroughly discussed at the next session of the Faculty Senate.



    1. Thanks Richard!

      These are excellent considerations to bring up AFTER the Working Group has reported to the Senate sometime in December. Remember that the charge to the WG is basically to educate the Senate on what a required program might look like. It is NOT a recommendation that goes to Mike and Martha.

      That said, I recommend looking at the kind of faculty training that is required of those whose research involves human subjects. Or whose research is potentially dangerous or unethical. I am unaware of any free speech push back in those venues. Perhaps it is because the faculty in these areas understand the importance of careful behavior when they “do their thing” in a complicated environment. Are we not talking about the same thing here?

      1. I think it naive to suggest that this is the “same thing” as training on research.

        The problem is that your anti-racism training is driven by ideologues; we have plenty of examples of “anti-racism” ideologues on campus taking on complex political discussions and degrading them into coercive expressions–do you remember “take a knee for Palestine” from just a few years ago? The Dean of the Faculty played a role in that embarassing episode–having encouraged all of the faculty to participate. l would hope you were embarassed by that episode….yet this feels like it has all the same character.

      2. The Human Subjects training is specifically to meet the legal requirements associated with doing such research. Likewise training for radioactive materials or pesticides. There are no academic freedom, speech or ideological dimensions. It has to do with legal compliance in specific activities. Only those who wish to carry out those activities take such training. Those are quite different from what is proposed here.

      3. 1. It would be helpful if you could explain in more detail the analogy you suggest between “the kind of faculty training that is required of those whose research involves human subjects,” and the kind of required faculty programming your working group is presently contemplating. I believe some such analogy was suggested by your concluding question (“Are we not talking about the same thing here?”)

        2. Could you please provide references to empirical literature suggesting a causal link between the kind of required faculty training your working group is presently contemplating and changes in participant a) attitudes, beliefs, and other such cognitive states, and/or b) actions, behavior, conduct and so forth.

        Thank you.
        Thank you.

  14. A Comment for A Required Educational Program for Faculty (Working Group F)
    – having completed hundreds of hours of online/remote/mandatory learning, I want to comment that this training will be infinitely more effective if you include any kind of group discussion/interaction. It must no be only slides to click through. Mandatory post/response is a method, a more preferred method would be a randomized zoom meeting, to create sharing and common understanding amongst disparate faculty groups.

    1. This whole program would be an explicit and concerted institutional effort to induce the faculty not to take in a particular set of facts, but rather to take on board a particular set of attitudes that the institution happens to approve — attitudes, moreover, that are not even themselves reactions to facts, but are attitudes toward the products of a certain kind of analysis of certain highly complex and debatable social and political realities. That isn’t any kind of “education.”

      1. Indeed, once the “required faculty programming” is seen, not as programming intended to advance whatever ends “diversity, equity, and inclusion” is intended to advance — ends usually described in vague, abstract language — but as intended to advance the ends of a contested and contestable political and/or social theory, one should think such required programming would be much more difficult to justify, especially within an institution ostensibly dedicated to academic freedom.

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