Upcoming workshops will help identify unseen biases

Erik Girvan

The Center of Diversity and Community, a unit of the Division of Equity and Inclusion, will be offering two-hour workshops on Understanding Implicit Bias in October and November.

Workshop participants will learn about the potential for some harmful side effects when people’s brains perceive, categorize and draw inferences about the world, including other people, and when implicit bias is most likely to occur.

Erik Girvan, associate law professor, will facilitate the workshops. Girvan’s research investigates how stereotypes, attitudes, and other biases might impact decisions in the legal system and related context, such as school discipline decisions. He empirically tests practical ways to reduce or eliminate implicit biases by working with a diverse variety of legal and other professionals.

“Implicit bias is about automatically categorizing people based on indications of race, sex, occupation or other characteristics and then making assumptions about them based on stereotypes of people in those groups,” said Girvan. “It is a result of how our brains organize information and often not an indication of someone’s values, what they believe or what they would necessarily endorse as true.”

The workshop includes short presentations, interactive exercises, discussion and learning on practical steps to try to reduce or eliminate implicit bias, such as countering stereotypes, high levels of personal involvement and specific goal intentions. It also includes discussion of ineffective strategies for reducing implicit bias, such as engaging with others’ perspectives or increasing positive emotions.

Yvette Alex-Assensoh, vice president for equity and inclusion, said, “These workshops will help us to understand what strategies we need to take to undermine the implicit bias that effects all of us. They will help us understand dynamics that can regularly occur at the UO at faculty meetings, student assessments, award panels and more.”

Attending a workshop is required by the provost for those serving on search committees for tenure-track positions, as well as searches for officer of administration positions in academic units that are at an OA12 level or higher. Search committee members are particularly encouraged to attend the remaining fall workshops, scheduled for Nov. 6 and 13.

“The workshops ought to be particularly important for those serving on search committees and the hiring managers,” said Jayanth Banavar, provost and senior vice president. “Understanding implicit bias will help us move forward successfully as a university and attract and retain diverse faculty, staff and students of excellence.”

If search committee members are unable to attend a November session, they should complete an online version of the workshop to help support the current search process. However, as attendance at a future in-person session will be required for any future search committee service, faculty should enroll in a workshop when one is available.

Completing a workshop covers search committee service for three years. This applies only to in-person workshops and not the online version, as there is significant benefit to engaging with colleagues in the conversations that happen during workshop sessions. 

More information and registration can be found on the events section of the Division of Equity and Inclusion website.

—By tova stabin, University Communications