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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Evidence-Based?

The phrase "evidence-based" treatment has become popular in medicine and has spilled over into other fields.  It's a simple enough idea: treatments should be examined statistically to see if they "work" or work better than other alternatives.

Over the last few years, however, orders have come down - either from Sacramento or from UC headquarters in Oakland - that university employees (including faculty) should be trained to avoid unethical behavior or sexual harassment.  The training ends up being mandatory computer-administered multiple choice quizzes that can take considerable time to fill out.  As far as yours truly knows, there is no evidence - or at least none has been presented - that as a result of such training folks become more ethical or less likely to engage in sexual harassment.

That evidence omission has not prevented the legislature of late from considering a mandate of training regarding sexual assaults on university campuses, currently a hot topic at the federal and state level.  See:
http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2014/07/das-williams-promises-legislative-response-to-campus-sexual-violence.html

Absent evidence of effectiveness, such mandates become a feel-good exercise for legislators and/or university administrators.  Or they become legal defenses: "It's not our fault X happened because we provided training to prevent it."  We do know one effect such training has: It generates fees and jobs for those who designed the online training programs.

Maybe it's time to get off the mandatory-training-for-all track:
video

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