George Mason University Implements Virtual Reality Program to ‘Recognize’ Implicit Bias

The Health and Human Services Department at George Mason University announced its intentions to train faculty “to recognize and react to implicit bias and microaggressions through a [virtual reality] simulation.” The goal of the program is to “mitigate the harmful effects of racism and discrimination” and possibly expand to students should it be successful. Following the simulation, participants fill out surveys describing the program’s influence in reducing “racism, microaggressions, and discrimination.”

From The College Fix:

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression said the university must be careful not to require a specific outcome or statement of belief as part of the training.

Campus Rights Advocacy Program Officer Haley Gluhanich told The College Fix that the program may veer into “unlawful thought reform” if “participants are forced to say they believe in certain views taught in the training, or change their course material to conform to it, that would likely be unconstitutional.” She said the survey portion raises concerns about legality.

Gluhanich wrote that it is probably legal as long as the program does not force participants to affirm certain positions or mandate faculty to change their teaching curriculum.

The platform allows faculty “to experience microaggressions from different perspectives, including the receiver, witness/bystander, and the source, in a real-life context,” Bethany Cieslowski, the college’s simulation coordinator, stated in the news release. “VR offers the opportunity for deliberate, repeated practice required to gain the confidence and skills necessary to react to the negative effects of racist language and actions.”