Labor Relations

Micro-aggressions Discussion: March 2, 2016

During contract negotiations with UAW Local 4121 in 2015, UW agreed to facilitate several meetings focusing on the parties’ joint goal of addressing micro-aggressions at the University. The first of these meetings occurred on March 2, 2016, and UW invited Jaye Sablan (Core Programs Coordinator at the Graduate School) and Vanessa Álvarez (Program Officer at the Graduate School’s Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program [GO-MAP]) to attend.

Jaye and Vanessa provided a detailed overview of the discussions and initiatives occurring at UW related to micro-aggressions. The Graduate School has devoted significant attention to combatting micro-aggressions, and has been exploring ways to establish programming to provide meaningful support to graduate students, staff, and faculty alike.

Efforts Currently Underway

Workshops: Based in part on an invitation from UW’s Graduate and Professional Advisors Association (GPAA) last spring, Jaye and Vanessa have co-designed an interactive workshop on recognizing and interrupting micro-aggressions in support of diverse graduate student populations. They designed a workshop that accommodates varying levels of knowledge among attendees and promotes active (rather than passive) learning. The ultimate goal is to impart confidence and actionable knowledge that empowers participants to educate others and address micro-aggressions where they encounter them.

Jaye and Vanessa are conducting this workshop on March 4, 2016, for the GPAA. The GPAA requested the workshop, seeking knowledge and resources to bring back to their respective departments, signaling a growing institutional awareness.

Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) Sessions: CTL facilitates workshop sessions where the topic of micro-aggressions is discussed during the annual RA/TA Conference on Teaching, Learning and Research. UW volunteered to follow up with CTL leadership regarding ways to encourage attendance at these sessions.

GO-MAP Power Hours: GO-MAP hosts professional development opportunities called Power Hours numerous times per quarter. They hope to host a Power Hour during Winter Quarter 2016 titled “Being a TA of Color,” which will focus on addressing racial micro-aggressions in the classroom.

Course Offerings: The Graduate School is offering a 1-credit course during Spring Quarter 2016 titled “Engaging Micro-aggressions: Living Just Relationships” for graduate students and staff as part of a 2015-2016 course sequence focused on equity. This course is being co-taught by Dr. Gino Aisenberg, Associate Dean of Diversity for the Graduate School, and Ada Onyewuenyi, PhD student in Education.

Online Resources: The Graduate School is working to establish a more centralized web presence related to equity and diversity work, including micro-aggressions, where resources and information on relevant graduate initiatives around campus are consolidated into one place. Efforts are underway on this plan, which could be in place as early as fall of 2016.

Public Lectures: The Graduate School’s 2015-2016 lecture series includes “Equity and Difference: Keeping the Conversation Going,” which will bring in a total of eight speakers in conjunction with the University’s Race & Equity Initiative, including “Microaggression: Power, Privilege and Everyday Life,” a lecture by Touré on April 5, 2016.

Keeping the Momentum

The parties acknowledged the systemic nature of issues like micro-aggressions, and that change can be incremental at times. The union recognized that it may be impossible to fully eradicate micro-aggressions, but the parties agreed that to lower the defensiveness and the discomfort that often accompany discussions on micro-aggressions would represent a significant victory.

Next Steps

Jaye and Vanessa answered several questions from the union. UAW 4121 described its primary focus areas as increased training, the creation of a reporting mechanism, and a more central web presence. UW and the union will convene several more discussions on micro-aggressions during 2016 and 2017.