College campuses, computers have become the newest...


February 01, 1994

ON MANY college campuses, computers have become the newest tool to fight racial and ethnic intolerance. Last October, Vanderbilt University released an interactive computer program for this purpose, called the "Diversity Opportunity Tool."

The goal of the project's director, Alma R. Clayton-Pedersen, was to teach individuals how to react when confronted with racial or ethnic insensitivity. Ms. Clayton-Pedersen feels that despite the public's growing racial awareness, people are still unsure how to deal with such situations.

The program consists of two scenarios between black and white students. In each situation, the viewer is given the power to decide how the characters will act.

In one scenario, students are working on a group project. The group's leader repeatedly excludes the group's sole black member. Once it is clear that these actions are racially motivated, the viewer is asked to act, and then evaluate the effectiveness of his or her choice.

For example, personal attacks and strong language produce fewer positive results than efforts to gain support from other group members to challenge the group leader. The program's creators hope to add more scenarios involving a broader range of ethnic groups.

The program is currently being tested at about 12 schools including Emerson College, Franklin and Marshall College and the University of Kansas. The response has been largely positive. The interactive nature of the program seems to be more effective than the traditional texts and videos.

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