A recent professional development seminar for University of Michigan employees was spent “unpacking Whiteness” as a means of teaching staffers how to talk about social justice.

They spent time this month learning about the “discomfort” that comes with living in their own skin in 2017, along with ways it hinders efforts to relate with minorities.

The “Conversations on Whiteness” event was held during a two-day conference titled Student Life Professional Development Conference 2017 (Identity, Wellness, & Work: Healthier, Happier & More Efficient).

“This is an internal training for U-M Student Life staff,” organizers told the education watchdog The College Fix for a piece published Tuesday.

Subsequent requests for comment were ignored, although the university’s website includes an overview of the Dec. 5 session.

“Do you feel uncomfortable as a White person engaging with students or colleagues about social justice issues?” the summary asks. “Do you want to help students and staff as they work through the difficulty of campus climate issues related to race, but don’t know how? Using the Privileged Identity Exploration Model (PIE), participants will have the opportunity to recognize the difficulties they face when talking about social justice issues related to their White identity, explore this discomfort, and devise ways to work through it.

“Please join us for this session, as we spend time unpacking Whiteness and how to contribute to the work of supporting students and staff related to identity and social justice.”

The College Fix noted that PIE was launched in 2007 at the University of Iowa. Instructors who use the model are tasked with breaking through the “denial” and “minimization” of white audiences when discussing white privilege.

© Copyright (c) 2017 News World Communications, Inc.

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