Including a diversity statement on your syllabus can set the tone for your classroom environment. It shows students that you value and respect difference in intellectual exchange, and are aware of current campus conversations surrounding diversity. (Adapted from Cornell's Center for Teaching Excellence resource, POD Network conference, 2011.)
When crafting a diversity statement you might consider the following questions:
- What are your discipline's conventions and assumptions? How might students with varying backgrounds respond to them?
- What role does your respect for and engagement with diversity in the classroom play in your personal teaching philosophy?
- What positive learning outcomes can come from respecting difference in the classroom? How can you highlight these?
- What do you want your students to know about your expectations regarding creating and maintaining a classroom space where differences are respected and valued?
- Is your statement inclusive of different types of diversity, including, but not limited to: race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, religion, and disability?
- Which campus resources would you like to direct your students to for further support?
- What kind of classroom environment would your students like to see? How might you include them in the conversation about standards for classroom civility?
Sample syllabus statements from Brown University
Diversity and Inclusion Statements
In an ideal world, science would be objective. However, much of science is subjective and is historically built on a small subset of privileged voices. I acknowledge that the readings for this course, including the course reader and BCP were authored by white men. Furthermore, the course often focuses on historically important neuroscience experiments which were mostly conducted by white men. Recent edits to the course reader were undertaken by both myself and some students who do not identify as white men. However, I acknowledge that it is possible that there may be both overt and covert biases in the material due to the lens with which it was written, even though the material is primarily of a scientific nature. Integrating a diverse set of experiences is important for a more comprehensive understanding of science. Please contact me (in person or electronically) or submit anonymous feedback if you have any suggestions to improve the quality of the course materials.
Furthermore, I would like to create a learning environment for my students that supports a diversity of thoughts, perspectives and experiences, and honors your identities (including race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, ability, etc.) To help accomplish this:
- If you have a name and/or set of pronouns that differ from those that appear in your official Brown records, please let me know!
- If you feel like your performance in the class is being impacted by your experiences outside of class, please don't hesitate to come and talk with me. I want to be a resource for you. Remember that you can also submit anonymous feedback (which will lead to me making a general announcement to the class, if necessary to address your concerns). If you prefer to speak with someone outside of the course, Dean Bhattacharyya, Associate Dean of the College for Diversity Programs, is an excellent resource.
- I (like many people) am still in the process of learning about diverse perspectives and identities. If something was said in class (by anyone) that made you feel uncomfortable, please talk to me about it. (Again, anonymous feedback is always an option).
-Monica Linden, Neuroscience, Brown University
"I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops."
Stephen J. Gould
We think that Gould wasn’t just expressing concern for the underrepresented, but pointing out how much the world has lost because only a very small subset of people ever had a good chance to contribute to its progress. In this class, as members of one of the most historically privileged institutions on earth, we have a chance to make a dent in this historical pattern. The promise of science at its best is that the strength of your contribution does not depend on your identity. This promise has never been fully met, and part of our jobs as instructors is to get science closer to it. We are professors at Brown University, and this gives us power and privilege. We intend to use our current positions to empower those who do not yet have the same power and privilege. If you find yourself wondering whether the ways in which you are different from your peers or from the historical figures of the academic canon make you less qualified to be a student or a scientist, please remember this: the only thing we care about in this class is what you can do, and we promise to work to make sure you have what you need to be able to do it. Our fields, like all fields, need more and more people like you (and unlike you) to show what they can do. And if you feel empowered already, we hope you will join us in empowering your peers.
-Roman Feiman and Ellie Pavlick, Computer Science, Brown University (for CSCI 2952I/CLPS 1850: Language Processing in Humans and Machines)
The Department of Sociology embraces a notion of intellectual community enriched and enhanced by diversity along a number of dimensions, including race, ethnicity and national origins, gender and gender identity, sexuality, class and religion. We are especially committed to increasing the representation of those populations that have been historically excluded from participation in U.S. higher education.
Brown University Department of Sociology
English Language Syllabus Statement
Brown welcomes students from around the country and the world, and their unique perspectives enrich our learning community. To support students whose primary language is not English, services are available on campus including language workshops and individual appointments. For more information, contact English Language Support at [email protected] or (401) 863-5672.
Example from the Sheridan Center for co-curricular programs
The Sheridan Center supports an inclusive learning environment where diverse perspectives are recognized, respected, and seen as a source of strength. Certificate II seeks to present a variety of diverse perspectives within the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL) and through our seminar discussions. The seminar will address diversity considerations for course design and student engagement along a number of dimensions, including race, ethnicity and national origins, gender and gender identity, sexuality, socio-economic class, age, religion, and disability. Seminar participants who have a disability or other condition necessitating accommodation are encouraged to discuss their needs with the instructor.
Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, Course Design Certificate, Brown University
A land acknowledgment is a "formal statement that recognizes the unique and enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories" (http://www.lspirg.org/knowtheland/). As such, it the first step to a reflection process that will help you be more intentional as you move through spaces. You are welcome to continue to learn about and build relationships with the communities and the land you are occupying in an effort to continually support and work with those communities.
You would acknowledge the land at Brown University using the following statement:
"Brown University is located in Providence, Rhode Island, on lands that are within the ancestral homelands of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. We acknowledge that beginning with colonization and continuing for centuries the Narragansett Indian Tribe have been dispossessed of most of their ancestral lands in Rhode Island by the actions of individuals and institutions. We acknowledge our responsibility to understand and respond to those actions. The Narragansett Indian Tribe, whose ancestors stewarded these lands with great care, continues as a sovereign nation today. We commit to working together to honor our past and build our future with truth."
Guidance for use of Brown's land acknowledgement statement can be found at the website: https://landacknowledgment.brown.edu/
If you are not at Brown you may use the website https://native-land.ca/ to identify which traditional homelands you are occupying. As part of the reflection process, feel free to reach out to local Indigenous communities to understand their perspective and how to correctly pronounce their names.
Mental health concerns or stressful events (ex: a global pandemic) may lead to diminished academic performance or reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. Free, easily accessible, confidential mental health services are available to assist you with addressing these and other concerns you may be experiencing. You can learn more about the broad range of mental health services available on campus at the Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) website at brown.edu/caps.
Sample syllabus statements from other universities
In our structured and unstructured discussions and dialogues, we also will have many opportunities to explore some challenging issues and increase our understandings of different perspectives. Our conversations may not always be easy; we sometimes will make mistakes in our speaking and our listening; sometimes we will need patience or courage or imagination or any number of qualities in combination to engage our texts, our classmates, and our own ideas and experiences. Always we will need respect for others. Thus, an additional aim of our course necessarily will be for us to increase our facility with the sometimes difficult conversations that arise as we deepen our understandings of multiple perspectives – whatever our backgrounds, experiences, or positions.
Alisse Portnoy, Introductory-level English class, University of Michigan.
"Respect for Diversity: It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be wellserved by this course, that students' learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Please let me know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups. In addition, if any of our class meetings conflict with your religious events, please let me know so that we can make arrangements for you."
University of Iowa College of Education