UW Faculty Discuss Racism In The Classroom

Dec 11, 2018

A screenshot of Taylar Dawn Stagner's essay for YR.media
Credit yr.media

An essay has drawn national attention to how University of Wyoming faculty address difficult topics like racism when they come up in the classroom. It was written by Taylar Stagner, a Native American graduate of the University of Wyoming, who is also a part-time reporter at Wyoming Public Radio.

In response, Elbogen Center for Teaching and Learning at UW offered a session on Tuesday to share best practices for confronting prejudice and supporting marginalized students. The discussion featured Dr. Emily Monago, UW's chief diversity officer, and Dr. Angela Jaime who directs UW's Native American and Indigenous Studies program.

The essay published by YR.Media described an incident where two white students beat on their desks and did the tomahawk chop following Stagner's presentation about the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Dr. Jaime said that's just one example of the prejudice students of color and Native American students experience on a daily basis.

"But this is not unique to the University of Wyoming," explained Jaime. "This is an experience that can be understood by so many students across the country."

Jaime said the session would discuss overt forms of prejudice as well as micro-aggressions, where the perpetrator may not even be aware of the harmful effects of their behavior.

Dr. Jaime said professors need to intervene because doing nothing sends the message that prejudice is acceptable, but she acknowledged that it can be hard to respond when faculty are caught off guard. Tuesday's workshop was designed to help.

"I think the more often you have these conversations consistently the better prepared you are for the maybe one time or every time it happens," said Jaime.