Most of us begin the year by crafting/editing syllabi that describe course objectives, logistics, and policies for our classes. Whether students read these carefully or not is another question, but what if we also used our syllabi to convey some information to them about inclusion or diversity? Some schools require instructors to put some language in their syllabi about how students with learning disabilities can receive accommodations, but I’m talking about something a little more general.
What kinds of information might you want to convey to your students? You could convey
- that you value diversity, social justice, inclusion, and/or equity in your class, what that looks like, and why you value it,
- that you want to make your classroom an inclusive environment for learning and how you’re going to do that,
- why your students should value diversity and inclusion
- ways in which your students can also create an inclusive environment,
- your openness to hearing concerns from students.
Here are some examples of what you could put in your syllabi. Some of these came from awesome colleagues Sumi Pendakur, Ron Buckmire, Rachel Levy, Talithia Williams, and Dagan Karp.
As your instructor, I am committed to creating a classroom environment that welcomes all students, regardless of race, gender, social class, religious beliefs, etc. We all have implicit biases, and I will try to continually examine my judgments, words and actions to keep my biases in check and treat everyone fairly. I hope that you will do the same, that you will let me know if there is anything I can do to make sure everyone is encouraged to succeed in this class.
Our institution values diversity and inclusion; we are committed to a climate of mutual respect and full participation. Our goal is to create learning environments that are usable, equitable, inclusive and welcoming. If there are aspects of the instruction or design of this course that result in barriers to your inclusion or accurate assessment or achievement, please notify the instructor as soon as possible.
My goal is to welcome everyone to <<insert your field>>. As a instructor, I hold the fundamental belief that everyone in the class is fully capable of engaging and mastering the material. My goal is to meet everyone at least halfway in the learning process. Our classroom should be an inclusive space, where ideas, questions, and misconceptions can be discussed with respect. There is usually more than one way to see and solve a problem and we will all be richer if we can be open to multiple paths to knowledge. I look forward to getting to know you all, as individuals and as a learning community.
Classroom Conduct: The goals of this course can only be accomplished in a setting of mutual respect. Although the study of mathematics rarely lends itself to too much controversy, we must still provide a safe environment that is conducive to learning. All are welcomed and encouraged to actively participate in the learning of [[insert topic here]], regardless of gender, race, nationality, native language, sexual orientation, gender identity, political ideology, and especially personal mathematical history. Any student who feels she or he is experiencing a hostile environment should speak to me immediately.
Do any of you do something similar on your syllabi? It would be great if people could use the comments below to suggest other examples so that we can have a mini-repository of helpful language for instructors.