Wednesday, October 5, 2011

EEO training targets Catholics with negative stereotype

I work for a state university. Every two years all employees, from the faculty down to student workers, are required to complete mandatory training. It’s part of our minimum job expectations. The topics are pretty basic, covering the usual expected areas: Fraud Awareness, Cash security, Secure Computer Systems, Ethics, External Consulting, FERPA, and Equal Employment Opportunity.

After ten years of employment here, I’ve reviewed the training and passed the assessment exams five times. This year I noticed that some of the training videos/ PDF slides were redesigned from the previous training two years ago.

Instead of simply presenting the necessary information, the reviews include suggested scenarios, with a little Q&A to make sure you understand the concept. Under the EEO training, we are reminded that “equal employment opportunity is the requirement that all persons receive the same opportunities for hiring, training, promotion, etc. without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin/ethnicity, disability, age, veteran status, and genetic information.”

Slide 5 reiterates that at our employer: “Harassment and/or discrimination based on sex, race, religion, color, age, national origin/ethnicity, disability, veteran status, genetic information and/or sexual orientation will not be tolerated.”

So you might imagine my shock when this slide appeared, as the example for Religious Harassment. (click image to enlarge)

Slide from FY12 UHS Mandatory Training EEO

Stunned. I didn’t know what to think. First of all, I’ve never met anyone, Catholic, Christian, or otherwise who would grab someone’s hands and begin praying out loud in the workplace. The scenario continues with the Catholic becoming upset, treating this new employee rudely, and disintegrates into being downright hateful. What this person is described doing would be considered against the very tenets of the Catholic Faith. It’s completely implausible!

At first I tried to dismiss this, telling myself that something has to be used as an example. But as I continued through the training, reading more likely examples presented in other areas, I became more and more incensed at the derogatory, negative, and completely false stereotype used to represent Catholics. Ironically, an earlier slide had cautioned us that stereotypes or assumptions “can easily get people into trouble for … harassment or discrimination.”

I realize that this slide was not prepared by anyone at my campus location, but it does represent the views and ideas of our university system, and possibly a higher governmental level.

I work in a wonderful campus setting where I’m exposed to rich, diverse cultures and ideas. Some of these I embrace and participate, while others I simply look the other way, disinterested. However, I’ve never felt any offense or intolerance directed at myself or based on my own thoughts, ideas, or culture.

I’m extremely disappointed that the person who developed this training program appears to be so ignorant of the Catholic faith, that they would write something this crude. By creating this implausible scenario, the trainers did exactly what they’re trying to educate people from doing. They used an offensive stereotype about Catholics, implying we would be the type of people to blatantly intimidate or harass another faith. Under the guise of educating people, the trainers actually become the ones who offend.
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