Bahai News - Diversity Training Criticized Tuesday, April 11, 2000

LANL Diversity Training Criticized

By Ian Hoffman
Journal Staff Writer
SANTA FE Diversity advocates in the Birthplace of the Bomb stumbled into a minefield as they tried to train co-workers to embrace their differences.
    The idea for a "diversity stand-down" was Energy Secretary Bill Richardson's. It was his answer to Asian Americans angered over the Wen Ho Lee prosecution and a report that unearthed "racial profiling" at nuclear-weapons sites. He set a May 5 deadline for workers nationwide to undergo a few hours of diversity training.
    Los Alamos National Laboratory's new diversity director jumped at the chance. Lisa Gutierrez and fellow organizers juggled the schedules of two speakers and the lab director.
    For the date they planned, they narrowly dodged Spring Break and a string of Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic holidays.
    April is loaded in holy days, and Gutierrez ran into three by selecting April 20: Passover, Holy Thursday and the Baha'i Festival of Ridvanbut (pronounced riz-wan).
    "Almost every day in my calendar is something," she said later. But then she committed a real sensitivity faux-pas: In answer to protests from a handful of Jews and Christians, she noted that April 20 also is Adolf Hitler's birthday, a fact other employees had pointed out to her.
    "It wasn't intentional," Gutierrez said Monday. "It was one of those things where people thought Adolf Hitler's birthday is a negative thing and diversity training is a positive thing ... I realized when I read my e-mail that it sounded like I was equating Hitler's birthday with Passover and Holy Thursday."
    She immediately wrote an explanatory e-mail and apologized.
    "I'm apologizing because I did not mean to imply that (Hitler's birthday) was in any way equivalent to the first three religious observances," Gutierrez wrote in her e-mail. "I was including 'apples and oranges' in my comments and didn't intend to do so."
    Some workers were still smoldering the next day, and Gutierrez's colleagues rushed to her defense.
    "As I sat in the planning meetings with Lisa, there was almost constant caution and reminders by Lisa to show sensitivity to people," said Mick Trujillo, director of the lab's equal-employment opportunity office. "I think maybe an individual or group of individuals misinterpreted Lisa's intent here."
    "It's difficult to find a day in this world that's satisfactory to everyone," he said.
    That it is, especially during Multicultural Communication Month.


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