UC pressures profs to incorporate 'inclusivity' in curricula

The University of Cincinnati welcomed its faculty back to campus with a set of “recommendations” on how to write tolerant syllabi and behave “inclusively” in the classroom.

The 30-page document, drafted by UC’s “Creation of Inclusive Classrooms” working group and obtained exclusively by Campus Reform, details the preferred definitions of terms like “people of color,” “oppression,” and “racism.”

Racism, for instance, ought to be thought of as “a complex system of beliefs and behaviors, grounded in a presumed superiority of the white race,” strongly suggesting that racist behavior can only be attributed to white persons.

“These beliefs and behaviors are conscious and unconscious; personal and institutional, and result in the oppression of people of color and benefit the dominant group, whites,” the description continues. “A simpler definition is racial prejudice + power = racism.”

The same glossary of terms, listed in one of the two appendices contained in the working group’s report, goes on to describe “privilege” as a “right that only some people have access or availability to because of their social group memberships (dominants).”

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“Because hierarchies of privilege exist, even within the same group, people who are part of the group in power (white/Caucasian people with respect to people of color, men with respect to women, heterosexuals with respect to homosexuals, adults with respect to children, and rich people with respect to poor people) often deny they have privilege even when evidence of differential benefit is obvious,” the definition adds.

The document begins with a set of recommended “statements of inclusion for course syllabi,” which are presumably intended for faculty members to use as demonstrations of their commitment to diversity when writing a syllabus.

One such statement encourages faculty to write in their syllabi that they will “honor any request to address you by a preferred name or gender pronoun.

“Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to make records,” the example statement reads.

The report goes on to list some tips for fostering an inclusive classroom environment, which includes suggested tactics such using a “syllabus to establish inclusiveness,” “build comfort and community through thoughtfully designed activities,” and even asks professors to “arrange” their “classroom so that it invites equal discussion participation.”

Other sections delve into topics such as “bias and stereotype threats in the classroom” and “inclusive practices for in-class activities,” all of which offer detailed advisories on how best to make students feel comfortable in the classroom.

The working group’s report concludes with two separate appendices, the first of which contains suggested inclusive teaching “strategies” and the second of which contains the aforementioned glossary of terms.

Many of the suggested teaching strategies seem to suggest ways to make classroom discussions as comfortable as possible by telling professors to “stop or intervene in a discussion if comments become disparaging or devalue other students’ experiences” and to “refrain from asking individual students to speak for a social identity group.”

The document then asks professors to set “ample time for any in-class activities that require substantial reading, and provide guidance that reflects the fact that processing times will vary,” before going on to deliberate on the preferred content for UC courses.

For example, in a section devoted entirely to choosing the most tolerant course “content,” the report urges faculty members to “choose readings that deliberately reflect the diversity of contributors to the field,” and urges professors to “avoid references that are likely to be unfamiliar to some students based on their backgrounds,” noting that a reference to “American pop culture from ‘when you were in high school’ in a class with many international students” would be inappropriate.

It then states that professors should “include authors’ full names, not just initials, in citations” in order to “emphasize gender diversity.”

UC promoted the 30-page report in an email sent to all faculty members Tuesday, describing the document as a means of providing “practical advice on ways we can foster and support Inclusive Learning Environments,” in keeping with a university-wide push to “incorporate diversity and inclusion in the curriculum.”

“The guidelines in the attached documents are based on extensive engagement across the university including two input sessions, a faculty survey, the establishment of a steering committee, four working groups to investigate curricular planning, and a sub-committee to draft student learning outcomes,” the email notes, adding, “We hope that you will find the guidance provided in these documents useful to enhance the learning environments you design for students.”

UC’s Office of Public Relations confirmed to Campus Reform that “this is a university document and was sent out to all faculty,” but did not provide further comment. According to the email sent to faculty, the guide will eventually be made available on the university’s Faculty Resources web page.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski