The University of Maryland GSG passed a resolution Friday calling for the university to implement a mandatory periodic refresher sensitivity training for faculty and staff members.
Swarup Subudhi, the Graduate Student Government’s mechanical engineering program representative, authored the resolution.
He said he checked with the training administrators and found that new faculty and staff are only provided with sensitivity training as part of the training at the start of their employment, but no refresher training is later required.
“We all know that people have been having issues with their advisers where they don’t know what they’re talking about,” Subudhi said. “There have been very offensive exchanges between them, so this is just to keep that in check.”
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The resolution highlights how some graduate students fail to report these types of issues in fear of losing their funding, receiving backlash from faculty, or having their degree progress discontinued.
The assembly’s resolution calls for the university to establish a sensitivity module that is updated every three years and encompasses issues such as mental health, disability, race, gender and sexual orientation.
GSG President Joey Haavik said in the past, university administrators have responded to this issue by saying training already exists or that they can’t force faculty to do things. Haavik called on the assembly to come up with specific training suggestions that they can offer to tackle the issues that may go unaddressed.
“This is the moment when we have to be specific as a graduate student body, in liaising with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, in liaising with [the international students and scholar services], in order to really kind of get down to what are some of the issues that students are facing,” Haavik said.
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The assembly also passed a resolution asking for a review of the university’s police-led welfare checks, advocating for moving towards checks accompanied or led by mental health professionals.
On the university’s student affairs website, the first recommendation to students if they are concerned about another student’s behavior or actions is to call 911 or University Police. In cases where the student is unsure whether the situation warrants immediate police response, the webpage recommends reaching out to the police’s non-emergency number or the Behavior Evaluation and Threat Assessment Team.
The resolution authored by Erin Tinney, the criminology and criminal justice program representative, claims that this change “would ensure that impacted students receive proper care, reduce potentially harmful and traumatic interactions with the police, and ultimately lessen the workload for University Police.”
Many cities have implemented similar programs that rely on counselors or social workers as first responders for mental health crises rather than police, which resulted in fewer arrests, fewer injuries and lower public safety costs, according to a 2021 Forbes Magazine article cited in the resolution.