USF to Implement Mandatory Sensitivity Training

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Former ASUSF President Reyna Brown is part of a committee developing the Identity, Culture and Sensitivity Training. WILLIAM WIN/FOGHORN

A committee of students, faculty and staff is working to create a mandatory online educational program called Identity Consciousness Awareness and Sensitivity Training (ICAST) for incoming fall 2019 undergraduates. The program hopes to give students tools to navigate cultural differences on campus in a positive and respectful way.

“[ICAST] will educate students how to understand and value the diverse identities and cultures that exist within a community,” ICAST committee chair Golden Venters said.

“[Students will] understand and value the experiences of traditionally marginalized identities and cultures, and understand how marginalization, inequity and harm is perpetuated through values, behavior and systems,” Venters said, whose full time job is director of organizational effectiveness for student life.

According to former ASUSF Senate President Reyna Brown, a senior PASJ major, ICAST is going to be formatted similarly to the “Think About It” course required for all incoming USF students, which covers substance use and sexual assault.

Brown said ICAST will have students watch a video and then answer follow-up questions that dig into the content of interactions in the video. For example, the interactions might show stereotyping, misgendering or microaggressions around race. The ICAST committee wants the training to reflect real world experiences.

“It is not like you are going to get right or wrong answers, but the idea is that the questions are going to lead you through a cognitive process that helps uncover some of those unconscious feelings that lead folks to say offensive things,” Brown said.

ICAST will be launched through Canvas in summer 2019.

“The timeline that we have now is pretty much devising and creating material this semester, [as well as] getting curriculum down and talking to people, and also doing research on student testimony,” Brown said.

The resolution to implement ICAST was written by Amanda Augustine, last year’s ASUSF student of color representative. Augustine requested that a mandatory training be put in place for all freshmen before they come onto campus. When the resolution was being worked on, Senate spoke to Julie Orio, vice provost of Student Life, who then asked Venters to head up a committee for the development of ICAST.

Venters worked with Brown to pass the Senate resolution in fall 2017 and, in late May 2018, Orio allocated $20,000 from the Student Life budget for its continued development. Orio said the money will fund the costs that go into developing content, conducting focus groups and building the platform.

“[I hope that ICAST] lives up to its potential to further transform the University community —  and, by extension, the world — into a more compassionate and mindfully inclusive, equitable and just community,” Venters said.

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