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University Honors Program to ‘diversify’ curriculum, introduce anti-bias workshops

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All first-year students in the honors program will be required to live in West Hall on the Mount Vernon Campus, according to the release.

The University Honors Program announced a series of diversity and inclusion initiatives Thursday it will implement as early as this summer, according to a release.

The plan follows the honors program’s condemnation of the recent killings of Black Americans at the hands of police and of a lack of diversity within the honors program. The changes include initiatives to introduce unconscious bias workshops for all students in the program and diversify content covered in honors courses.

Faculty are working to include more readings from non-White and women authors in Origins and Evolution of Modern Thought, a mandatory introductory course, according to the release.

“Diversifying our syllabi is an ongoing effort – one that started over a decade ago when we began the important work of teaching non-Western traditions like Buddhism, Daoism and Confucian thought in Origins,” the release states. “We remain committed to advancing a wide range of voices in the Honors program and recognize that Origins is not the only place where we have work to do.”

All first-year students in the honors program will be required to live in West Hall on the Mount Vernon Campus, according to the release. First-year students were given the option of living in West Hall in previous years.

“Having the full incoming class living in West will allow us to do more focused community building in the first year, which is planned to include issues related to diversity and inclusion,” the release states.

Honors program officials are working with Dan Wright, the Vern’s area coordinator, and Vern Community Director Marissa Townsend to explore options to integrate diversity and inclusion programs into the residential community, along with a mandatory unconscious bias workshop for students starting this fall, the release states.

The release states that officials are working to integrate anti-racist and anti-bias training into the honors program’s peer adviser program to ensure that advisers are equipped with the “tools and self-awareness” needed to address acts of racism and bias.

Faculty and staff will also take part in anti-racist and anti-bias training that the Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement hosts, the release states.

Officials in the honors program started a “newly re-formed” advisory committee made up of faculty representatives that has been tasked with making diversity and inclusion recommendations to the program, the release states.

The release states that officials are convening a working group made up of students, faculty and staff to “help guide us going forward.” The group is set to convene over the summer on WebEx, and the work will continue into the fall semester, according to the release.

Officials have also updated the program’s student handbook, which is revised annually, to include policies that will help maintain a “supportive and inclusive environment,” the release states.

The release states that the honors program’s faculty handbook is also being updated to include “additional expectations and resources” for instructors.

Honors program officials have been working with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to ensure that a “diverse set” of applications is sent for review, the release states.

“We are working to upgrade the UHP website so that it better represents the program and will be more attractive to prospective students who want to build a strong academic community,” the release states. “We have also altered our portion of the admissions process to more explicitly consider factors such as race, socioeconomics and first-generation status.”

Elizabeth Chacko, the associate provost for the Mount Vernon academic experience and special programs, is working on building “common programming” for all students on the Vern to address issues of diverse course offerings and diverse faculty in upper-level courses, the release states.

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