This is probably a very USA-specific question: My university is implementing a new sensitivity training framework. This is so new that no information about it can be found in faculty handbook, school website, or anywhere I tried. This framework appears to be completely independent from colleges or the senate. I am one of the lucky few to be "invited" to join the training.

The invitation letter stated that such trainings are not mandatory, but in light of a recent "incidents" such trainings will of great value to me. My chair and dean all said these are optional yet they strongly implied that I should just go with it ("There's no reason to cause trouble").

I don't yet have tenure. So for me, in the current climate, is not mandatory a code phrase for mandatory?

  • 7
    Why ask us rather than listening to what your chair and dean have implied? Is saving the time you'd invest worth any risk of looking bad among people judging your fate? Is it possible there is some value in these trainings?
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 5 '21 at 6:27
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    Well, your tone doesn't imply it would be a waste of time for you Feb 5 '21 at 6:32
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    If you don't trust your chair and dean's advice, that's a much bigger problem for your tenure prospects than your attendance at training. Feb 5 '21 at 6:41
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    in light of...recent "incidents" such trainings will [be] of great value to me: If you're culpable for insensitive incidents, you should really attend. Your chair and dean may have publicly advised that attendance is optional for all, yet they['ve] strongly implied that [you] should [attend]: Are they doing so to keep incidents private? Allowing you to save face, to attend without publicly attributing blame?
    – user2768
    Feb 5 '21 at 7:23
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    They are not mandatory in the same way that you getting your tenure is not mandatory, I am afraid. Feb 5 '21 at 8:54

I just read a couple of your posts about how you interact with your students. Sensitivity training isn't optional. The people who will be voting on your tenure think you have a problem. Frankly, I agree with them.


No, in general 'Not Mandatory' doesn't mean 'Mandatory', also not in the 'current climate'.

However, in your case, given the advice of your chair and dean, I'd say it would be unwise not to go to these trainings. You could even gain something, both in the sense that you learn something and in the sense that you will get in a better view from the chair and dean. It will cost you some time, but not going might cost you more.

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    Non-mandatory means non-mandatory. When you do not have tenure, the institute is not mandatorily having you on payroll. There is a duality to these non mandatory situations that I think it is reasonable to pick up on. Feb 5 '21 at 9:13
  • I agree @StianYttervik, that's why I start with that remark. I don't fully understand what you mean with your final sentence though, could you explain?
    – Jeroen
    Feb 5 '21 at 9:25
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    I was agreeing with you. Employment in general is non-mandatory, it seems like a prudent choice to accept that... Some things are wise to assume as necessary even if they are not explicitly mandatory. Feb 5 '21 at 13:00