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James Madison University Faculty Doubles Down on Diversity Efforts Despite Training Backlash

James Madison University (Wikimedia)

Faculty members and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) administrators at James Madison University have vowed to “reinforce and strengthen” diversity efforts, which they believe are “under attack,” even going so far as asking for gifts for DEI staff members as a token of appreciation for the “valued staff members” behind the efforts.

Emails circulated by faculty and DEI administrators, obtained by National Review, asked members of an environmental interest group at the university to “consider showing up to express your support for diversity, equity and inclusion work and the people who are on the front lines of that work” by attending an August 31 open house for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion departments in Student Affairs.

“The need for us to stand with colleagues who have been attacked for this work are more important than ever and there is not much that is more powerful than physically standing next to them,” the email says.

The email comes in response to backlash over reports that student employees who led freshman orientation were subjected to training that claimed people who identify as male, straight, cisgender, Christian, or American are “oppressors.”

Last month, Tim Miller, vice president for Student Affairs, issued a video apology for the controversial training, which suggested that people who identify as male, cisgender, heterosexual, heteroromantic, Christian, white, Western European, and American are privileged. 

Miller announced the training would be paused for evaluation and review and apologized for “the impact this has had on so many members of our community.”

However, after Miller promised to dedicate his efforts “to ensuring that we learn from this experience,” faculty members have vowed to defend the school’s so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion programming.

“In light of the tumultuous start to DEI programming this semester, we ask that you bring with you two items: a token of appreciation for these valued staff members that further communicates to them their value to our campus [and] ideas about why budgeting for evidence- and theory-based DEI work should underlie a ‘better business model’ for JMU,” the email to the environmental interest group says.

A second email after the conclusion of the open house suggested members of the group should ask university administrators “what can be done to better prepare the university for the NEXT time we engage in evidence-based and theory-informed DEI work and opposing forces show up?”

“As conveyed in our multiple layers of strategic plans, visions and values, DEI work is to be core to our university identity — let’s reinforce and strengthen that core,” it adds.

A spokesperson for the university told National Review that “work and conversations surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion can be difficult and at times uncomfortable, but they are necessary.”

“These are challenging topics to discuss, and we know that they are important and demand a lot of thought and care,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The ongoing work of the university can, and must be, to seek to have such conversations in ways that honor and respect all members of our community.  We all have a lot to learn, and we all have a lot to contribute.”

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