UMN rolls out sexual misconduct training

Around 1,000 faculty and staff are piloting the training.

Kelly Busche

A group of around 1,000 University of Minnesota faculty and staff are piloting a new, mandatory sexual misconduct training.

The training — part of the President’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct — was rolled out to the pilot group last week and has received mixed reviews from some so far. Under new policy, the training will be mandatory for all faculty and staff.

The training is conducted through the EVERFI online portal that hosts alcohol consequences, sexual assault prevention and financial management training for first-year students.

About 40 percent of the pilot group had completed the training as of Friday, University President Eric Kaler said at the Board of Regents meeting that day.

“Training … will help us learn how to intervene and support victims,” Kaler said at the meeting.

According to presentation material at the meeting, the goal of the training is “to increase awareness and knowledge to change UMN culture to one that does not tolerate sexual misconduct and supports any victim to safely report.”

College of Liberal Arts Dean John Coleman, part of the first group to take the training, said the module is “a very effective tool.” It was easy to use and “felt real,” Coleman said.

“What most people will take away … are the experiences of going through the actual scenarios,” Coleman said. Trainees receive feedback on scenario responses so they better understand how to establish a supportive environment.

Additionally, he said the training included a wide variety of scenarios. 

“It covered all of the important elements of different kinds of conduct and … what their responses are,” Coleman said. 

He said he took the training during one day and estimates it took about 75-90 minutes.

Coleman said he sees the training impact as two-fold: influencing campus culture and improving people’s abilities to be effective bystanders. 

“I do think it will have a positive effect on the culture and … enlighten sensibilities about what is and is not appropriate and how to respond if you do hear something,” Coleman said.

Joseph Konstan, chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee, said while the training will be helpful, it wasn’t targeted as directly as he hoped.

“I think this was very much an introductory lesson,” Konstan said. 

He said he wished the training was more focused on faculty’s roles as bystanders and intervention skills, rather than the “ABCs” of workplace harassment.

“I don’t think you can ignore [workplace harassment] … but moving from what you can’t do … to what you can do about it is where we add the most value,” Konstan said.

However, Konstan said he appreciated that the training focused on “subtleties,” with some scenarios revealing that people were simply uncomfortable, not experiencing misconduct.

Short-term, Konstan said this may help those who don’t understand social norms and acceptable behavior.

“In the long-run if this is going to be successful, it’s going to be because it started a much more deep conversation about who we are, what our values are and what we as a University community can no longer tolerate,” Konstan said.

Coleman said he also sees this as a step toward larger culture change.

“It takes time for cultures to change, but I think this is an extremely strong first step in getting people to think about how they interact with people,” Coleman said.