Jeff Severin
Center for Sustainability

Staff Senate workshop series focuses on creating more inclusive workplaces at KU

Fri, 02/14/2020

This spring semester, the University of Kansas Staff Senate Diversity & Inclusion Committee will host its diversity, equity and inclusion workshop series for KU faculty and staff: “Unpacking Whiteness in the Workplace.” The workshop is a three-part series focusing on the impacts of privilege and white-dominant culture on the work environment.

Each three-hour session focuses on a different aspect of addressing privilege and on creating a more inclusive workplace by engaging participants in small group conversations about race and privilege and providing tools for creating change within their personal and professional lives. Sessions are co-facilitated by a team of trained staff volunteers, who work with six to eight participants at a time.

Workshops and related themes scheduled for this spring include:

  • Feb. 27 — Part 1: Focus on the Individual
  • March 26 — Part 2: Focus on the Institution
  • April 23 — Part 3: Risk and Aspiring to Allyship

Each workshop is from 1-4 p.m. Faculty and staff who would like to attend must register through myTalent by searching for “Unpacking Whiteness” on the My Learning tab or by using the links on the Staff Senate website.

The introductory workshop focuses on privilege at an individual level, providing participants with a better understanding of basic concepts. Subsequent workshops in the series build on these themes to explore how institutional racism can surface in office culture, social norms and departmental policies and how individuals within a majority group can take action to support and protect individuals with marginalized identities. Attending workshops as a series or in succession is not required, but it is helpful to build on and reinforce the concepts presented.

“We have observed that white folks are extremely hesitant to participate in conversations about race and are even more resistant to taking any action to change the systems, policies and practices that uphold oppression of people with marginalized identities,” said Jeff Severin, co-chair of the Staff Senate D&I Committee. “We want to create an environment through these workshops where people are encouraged to join the conversation but are also challenged to understand and evaluate their own complicity and begin taking action to create needed change at KU.”

Since launching the workshops in 2018, 275 faculty and staff across more than 60 campus departments have participated. Past participants have reported that the experience made them more aware of the inequities that people of color face on campus and how their departments contribute to those inequities. Participants have also left feeling empowered to work with others in their department to make changes to policies, practices and social norms.

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