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MSU Student Workers Told to not use Gender Specific “Triggers” in Mandated Training

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Author: Sergei Kelley

Michigan State University recently requested of student employees in a mandatory training to refrain from addressing customers with gender specific “sir or ma’am.”

MSU Service Center employees witnessed an hour long “Inclusive & Culturally Sensitive Service to Residents & Guests” segment during their mandatory fall training on August six. The presentation covered everything from identity wheels to utilizing pronouns to misgendering.

A trigger among the workplace is misgendering customers, MSU Facilities Manager Sheena Balbach shared. She then asked students, “how many of you were ever raised to say ‘yes sir’ or ‘no ma’am?’” A fair amount of hands raised, and she admitted she was also raised that way.

“But that could hurt...I would like to start seeing a culture around MSU where we say… ‘they’, not ‘hers’ or “his.”’ In addition, asking for a customer’s name is appropriate based on the presentation.

Ballbach further emphasized the importance of not misgendering customers, a point brought up by the previous presenter, Eduardo Olivio, the Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

“We live in a [gender] binary world...we all know that it’s just a social construction,” he had stated. Olivio had begun the diversity discussion with an identity wheel. The circle diagram is segmented into parts of one’s identity such as, “age, first language, and sexual orientation.”

This wheel signifies how people identify their memberships to social groups, Olivio shared. Using the wheel as a diagram, he asked students to reflect on “identities you think about most [and least] often, and to think about that throughout the day.”

According to Olivio, incidents of bias are increasing at MSU. In validation, he cited data the MSU Residence Housing Association (RHA) has allegedly been collecting for the last two years. In addition, their data has allegedly measured the impact of microaggressions and “macroimpacts” on MSU’s campus.

RHA is the student government whose constituents are campus dormitory residents. Their microaggressions campaign states, “college campuses serve many purposes, including the creation and maintenance of multicultural and brave spaces for action and dialogue around social justice.” Further, RHA spent $6,000 on a “Love and Unity Banquet” months ago.

Wrapping up his presentation, Olivio concluded the data supports the fact, “students on our campus from minoritized communities are feeling...not included and victims of oppression systems.”

MSU Service Centers are desks generally at entrances of dormitories, and mostly handle students’ questions and concerns, and mail.

James Stosio, who has previously attended the diversity segment, told The Morning Watch, he “usually feel[s] a little uncomfortable with all of it honestly, but… I do think it is valuable.” Stosio is an MSU senior studying political science.

The Morning Watch reached out to both instructors and other students, but did not receive comment in time for publication.

Contributor: Sergei Kelley

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