DiversityEdu was rolled out for all Boston College students in the fall of 2018 in response to student movements such as Silence is Still Violence that sought to bring awareness to issues of diversity and racism on campus. The diversity education module—which all incoming freshmen, transfers, and graduate students are now required to complete before they arrive on campus—has now gone through its second round of students after undergoing some changes based on student feedback.
The module takes students through a series of videos and open- and closed-ended questions related to diversity and inclusivity on campus, exploring terms such as “microaggressions” and “intersectionality” as they relate to incoming students’ campus experiences.
Vice President for Student Affairs Joy Moore said that while she received an overall positive response from students about the module in its first year, there still remained room for improvement.
“There was certainly groups of students who felt it didn’t go deep enough, and those who felt it was maybe a little too light,” she said. “That’s sort of in delving into the complexities of diversity and awareness and equity and inclusion … and there were several suggestions as to what can be done to improve it.”
One major change made to the module was the addition of a mandatory 20-question quiz at the end. The quiz was suggested by students who thought that the program was too passive compared to the other modules that incoming students are required to complete, such as AlcoholEdu.
The first iteration of DiversityEdu collected open-ended responses that were not graded, so there was a lack of accountability for the students learning the material, said Carrie Klemovitch, special assistant for Administration and Strategic Initiatives and the head of DiversityEdu.
“Students felt [that] was problematic,” said Moore. “They wanted people to think a little bit more about what they had just heard and learned.”
There were also key changes to the module to make it more specific to the University. The update includes the addition of interviews from faculty and staff, who give their take on some of the topics presented in the module, as well as video vignettes of various students talking about issues related to diversity and race on campus, said Klemovitch.
“The first year we rolled it out to all undergraduate students with the idea that going forward, it would just be first-year students,” said Klemovitch. “So this past year, 2019, all first-year students took the module before arriving on campus, and then as part of our Week of Welcome, they had a mandatory, small-group facilitated conversation about the module.”
Facilitated by upperclassmen student leaders and faculty, these conversations allowed students to apply the information that they learned in the module toward a positive and productive series of conversations and exercises, according to Klemovitch.
“[We knew that DiversityEdu] was a foundational course … it’s meant to be part of a number of building blocks that we’re doing across the University to help students have these conversations,” Klemovitch said. “And we wanted to start it early, with the goal that they’ll continue throughout their time at BC.”
“[DiversityEdu] was never designed with the idea that this one module was going to solve racial tension,” said Moore.
Klemovitch also said she saw a pronounced improvement in students’ understanding of key terms in the module, such as “intersectionality”—which DiversityEdu explored more in this iteration—and “microaggressions.” This improvement was reflected, she said, in the more positive responses in the pre- and post-module questionnaires, through which the DiversityEdu team received feedback about the module from the students who completed it.
“I think that this course was very helpful in learning about all of the different aspects of diversity,” one student response said. “Before I took the course, I was unaware of how many different parts there are to diversity, including race, age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. I was also unaware of the prevalence of micro aggressions in not just everyday life, but also in my own thinking. This course taught me valuable skills in recognizing my own bias and working to overcome them through continuing conversations about diversity.”
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Senior Staff