Few people think of Utah as a bastion of divisive and discriminatory identity politics – but the University of Utah, home to the only MD-granting school of medicine in the entire state, proves otherwise. The school recently responded to a freedom of information request for DEI-related training materials used during 2021-2022, and we found three items that should deeply worry policymakers in the Beehive State.
To start, the university is pushing so-called “implicit bias training” in the UHealth presentation titled Understanding and Overcoming Unconscious Bias, given by Jose’ Rodriguez, M.D., AVP Health Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion. Yet the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which the presentation includes a link for participants to take, has been widely discredited by the psychology community. Why is the medical school insulting its faculty and staff by promoting this inaccurate and potentially harmful concept?
Second, the school is especially focused on supposed unconscious bias in recruiting. In a 26-slide PowerPoint presentation titled Understanding Bias in the Admissions Process, it accuses the School of Medicine admissions committee members of being “biased from the beginning,” with a specific reference to individuals’ “White Preference.” The inference is that admissions committee members need re-education to overcome their bias, and this course takes another opportunity to promote the IAT.
But the presentation goes even further. While discussing implicit associations, the course materials warn about disadvantages to African American applicants if School of Medicine admissions committee members demonstrate “implicit White Preference,” which it claims is “present and measurable.” To ensure the point regarding “what implicit bias looks like” is made, the presenter notes state, “People with this bias unwittingly associate a white face with positive words or feelings and a black face with negative words or feelings – and they may act on those associations.”
Third, the focus on re-education extends to faculty searches and could even take the form of overt discrimination. We obtained a training video which search committee members are required to complete prior to screening applicants for open faculty positions. In Online Training for Search Committees, participants are directed to practice affirmative action – as in, make choices for new faculty members based in part on gender and skin color. Throughout the course, committee members are again lectured on their implicit biases and are predictably referred to the IAT. But here’s the key language, under the heading of “affirmative action responsibilities”: The school should “have a plan to increase the likelihood that it will get more qualified women and minorities in the applicant pool.”
The University of Utah School of Medicine says that it “trains the majority of Utah physicians.” That makes it even more important that it stop practicing divisive ideology and outright discrimination. If administrators won’t act, then policymakers should.
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