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Rural Communities TRASHED During Passage of Mandated Diversity Training Bill

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

“If you come from a rural area where you only saw people who look just like you...

you need help.”

Author: Sergei Kelley

The Michigan State University student government passed a bill advocating for mandated diversity training for all staff, students, and faculty.

At the General Assembly on December 5, 2019, student representatives cited rural, “middle of nowhere,” communities and microaggressions to support the bill. 

The undergraduate student government, the Associated Students of MSU (ASMSU), Bill 56-31 stated recent “morally and educationally dam*ing” incidents and a need for staff and faculty to “sensitively cater to minority students.”

Furthermore it states, “minority or oppressed identities contribute unequivocally to MSU’s advancement.” The bill passed committee on November 25.

[RELATED STORY: Diversity Training MANDATED in Student Gov Bill]

The bill’s final passage obliges ASMSU to help form a mandatory “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” training for all staff, faculty, and students. 

While the bill cited recent campus incidents such as a survey by an MSU professor and alleged nooses in a campus dorm, within the assembly several allegations were made against rural communities. 

“If you come from a rural area where you only saw people who look just like need help,” stated Black Student Alliance representative Dante Booker. 

Further, “Most people at Michigan State...come from homogenous towns...coming to MSU is the first time they are dealing with someone different than them,” stated representative Olivia Long of the Business College. 

Pointing to the ability of the training to “change conversations,” representative Angelina Sandora pointed to having conversations “with friends who weren’t really great when they first came, coming from small middle-of-nowhere places, and then [they] learned about different people.”

Sandora represents the College of Arts and Letters.

Booker similarly stated the training could “make them have the space where they have to think a certain way.”

Another rationale for the mandatory training brought in the General Assembly, not directly listed in the bill, were microaggressions. 

[RELATED STORY: MSU Places Microaggression Boards for Students to Handle “Harmful Language”]

Pushing back against claims by representatives saying they or others don’t need the training, representative Booker claimed, “You don’t know if you’re...doing microaggressions.” 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for ASMSU Miracle Chatman offered support. “Students of color don’t feel safe on this campus, they fear microaggressions daily.”

Throughout debate there was pushback, resistance to the proposed training. “This is the wrong solution to the problem,” said representative Ryan Aridi of the Engineering College. We’re “Inherently trying to fight a battle you can’t win,” and he thought it would be unfair to hold mandatory training for a few “bad apples.”

A few representatives pointed to the ineffectiveness of Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence (SARV) training, and the commonality of students not taking the training seriously. In addition, mandating training on diversity and inclusion could cause students to lose interest.

“Once you force people to do it, immediately people are not going to like the will actually lose support,” explained representative Christian Stack from the Engineering College. 

“We aren’t going to change morals, but maybe people in the middle...people who don’t know,” representative Kyle Perlmuter of the Jewish Student Union pushed back. Other representatives shared the same sentiment and thought the bill would be an important start. 

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