MARIETTA - Diversity doesn't just consist of different races, religions and sexual orientations, and bias isn't just something displayed by openly racist or discriminatory individuals.
The nature of diversity and bias - and how to promote the former and address and discourage the latter - are the focus this week of training for 23 Marietta College staff members who starting next year will share what they've learned with co-workers and students.
Administrators from the campus police chief to the director of the career center and rank-and-file employees in various departments are participating in a week-long seminar offered by the Anti-Defamation League, a group founded to combat anti-Semitism but whose mission also includes promoting justice and fair treatment for all.
"If we do not stand up for others in terms of bias, bigotry and discrimination, who's going to stand up for us?" said Debbie Stogel, director of ADL's A Campus of Difference and A Workplace of Difference programs, in a telephone interview.
People may be or feel discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation, but there can also be divisions along socioeconomic and educational lines, said Richard Danford, the college's vice president for diversity and inclusion. When his office was created in August 2011, it was tasked with developing a strategic plan to address diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the college - including enrollment, employment, curriculum and community and alumni relations.
"We have folks on campus who have experiences in their daily lives here where they feel they're being silenced or marginalized," Danford said. "They're being evaluated because they're part of a group that they're determined to belong to (by someone else) without that individual getting to know them as a person."
The bias displayed isn't always overt or intentional, Danford said. In fact, one of the essential elements of the program is recognizing that "everyone has biases," he said.
MC admissions counselor James Bero said that was an eye-opening aspect of the training for him.
"I think for me (it was) looking at yourself and your own self-identity and realizing things about yourself," he said.
Danford said the training - conducted on campus by two facilitators from ADL - will help develop skills to deal with instances of bias without alienating those responsible.
"If you're not able to communicate with them effectively about the impact that their words or actions are having on other individuals, you don't really stand a chance of ... addressing this challenge effectively and creating change," he said.