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Inclusive Language for Syllabi  

One of the important ways that University of North Florida educators can help all students to be successful is to foster a class environment that is conducive to learning by conveying the instructor's core commitments to inclusion and support of diversity. As research has shown, diversity is a critical component to educational excellence. When students are able to see themselves represented in course content and discussion, it signals to them that their identities (such as race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, veteran status, age, national origin, religion) are valued and respected in the classroom. Instructors can access students’ lived experiences and cultural backgrounds as part of their curriculum to enhance student learning.

 

Educators should make clear they value and respect the diverse backgrounds and identities of their students and they welcome all perspectives in their class. This can be demonstrated in a diversity statement or in different ways throughout the syllabus. Below are several examples of inclusive language that faculty can modify and use in their syllabi. 

Example 1 (Very Short Version) 

Anti-racist education confronts the systemic and individual-forces that contribute to the economic, political, and social marginalization of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian Americans and works to challenge these structural inequalities. As an evidence-based approach to teaching, discourse around these issues is rooted in material artifacts that demonstrate these realities. 

Example 2 (Short Version)

The University of North Florida is committed to integrating and advancing inclusive excellence within all aspects of the University. It is crucial that we commit to learning from one another in our classroom and provide an environment where barriers to success are discussed and addressed. My desire is that we can create a classroom environment in which all are able to learn and succeed. Each voice in this classroom has something of value to contribute. Please take care to respect the different experiences, beliefs, and values expressed by students, employees and guests involved in this course.

 

I support our University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and welcome the voices and insights of individuals of all ages, backgrounds, citizenships, disabilities, sex, education, ethnicities, family statuses, genders, gender identities, geographical locations, languages, military experience, political views, races, religions, sexual orientations, socioeconomic statuses, and work experiences. It is my desire that I, and your fellow students, will honor the name and pronoun that you would like used when addressing you.  

Please consider adding a sentence about why diversity and inclusion is important for your area of study and students’ success in that field (e.g., what is the positive impact of supporting diversity and inclusion within your classroom and area of study?).

Example 3 (Longer Statement) 

It is crucial that we commit to learning from one another in our classroom and provide an environment where barriers to success are discussed and addressed. Some examples of what I am committed to are:

  • Names and Pronouns: It is my desire that I, and your fellow students, will honor the name and pronoun that you would like used when addressing you. I will create space within the classroom for you to notify me of your name and pronoun, but you may also contact me privately. I also understand that this may change throughout the semester, as students become more comfortable in sharing this information or as one’s experience changes.
  • Awareness that what happens outside the classroom can have a direct impact on our experiences within the classroom. When racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism, and other forms of discrimination occur, it may cause us distress or make it challenging for us to be as engaged as we would like within the classroom. If something has happened that is preventing you from learning in our environment, please either let me know so I can help find the best resources to support you on campus or in our community, or, if you are uncomfortable speaking with me, utilize the resources on campus like the Counseling Center, Dean of Students, Office of Diversity & Inclusion and Commission on Diversity & Inclusion. You may report incidents of discrimination to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Inclusion (EOI), Building 1, Suite 1200.
  • Addressing microaggressions, implicit bias, and/or discrimination within the classroom. Microaggressions are the everyday slights, indignities, put-downs and insults that members of marginalized groups experience in their day-to-day interactions with individuals who may be unaware that they have engaged in an offensive or demeaning way. I will try my best to address these in the moment but may not always succeed for a number of reasons, including: I may not hear or see something; I may want to talk with the person impacted before addressing the class; or I may simply not know how to respond in the moment, and may follow up when I’m able to determine the best course of action. If something has been said that has caused harm, please let me know and remember that you may report these incidents to EOI.
  • Continuously improving my understanding and practice of inclusive teaching. There are many ways we can all improve in creating inclusive environments. I am committed to learning. We all should acknowledge that this is an area of growth for everyone, even experts. Feedback can be challenging to hear, and changes difficult to implement, but I encourage us all to have an open dialogue about how we can create an inclusive environment that will foster the success I know my students are capable of. 

Please consider adding a sentence about why diversity and inclusion is important for your area of study and students’ success in that field (e.g., what is the positive impact of supporting diversity and inclusion within your classroom and area of study?).

Content Warning (Safe Learning Environments) Statement

In our class, we will engage in some difficult topics, including, but not limited to: [please list topics in your class, including, but not limited to homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, suicidality, war, sexual violence]. It is important that you engage with these topics as they shape our field of study. I have been careful in selecting how these topics are discussed, so that we are sensitive to how these issues may have already been lived experiences for students in this class and so we can achieve the learning outcomes for our class. You may find some of these topics emotionally challenging. If needed, I encourage you to utilize resources on campus, including, but not limited to:

 

UNF Counseling Center

(904) 620-2602
Founders Hall, Building 2, Room 2300
https://www.unf.edu/counseling-center/

counselingctr@unf.edu (non-emergencies)

 

UNF Student Accessibility Services

(904) 620-2769
Tom and Betty Petway Hall, Building 57, Room 1500

https://www.unf.edu/sas/  

SAScenter@unf.edu  

 

UNF Victim Advocacy Program

(904) 620-1010

Founders Hall Building 2 Suite 2100

https://www.unf.edu/womens-center/Victim_Advocacy.aspx

 

If you have questions about the content of our course, please come and speak with me. [Edit this to provide your own guidance on how students are expected to engage with you on sensitive material. Are they able to step out of class during triggering conversations? Can they miss sessions? Do you require that they receive appropriate accommodations from Student Accessibility Services to miss or step out of sessions?]

Guidance for Productive Conversations 

Respect and Civility in the Classroom: Our class discussions should, at times, lead to debate and academic disagreement. In a community of mutual respect and consideration, respectful disagreement is productive because it challenges assumptions and leads to exploration, growth, and thoughtfulness. Do not hesitate to express your ideas or to challenge the ideas of a peer, but please do so using respectful language and reasoned argument. Some guidelines:

  • Do not assume that everyone shares your experiences or perspectives.
  • Be prepared to own the intention and impact of your words.
  • Ask clarifying questions, offering feedback from a place of shared humanity.
  • Receive feedback by listening carefully and responding graciously.
  • Be mindful that discussion is shared time. Think of how and what you want to express but look for opportunities to be brief and to allow others to speak.
  • During discussion, reflect on how your perspective connects directly with the assigned readings. The readings have been carefully and expertly chosen so all the students can work with a common reservoir or information. That is not to discourage other sources, but to focus on the readings everyone is expected to read.

Communication with Faculty: This should be tailored to your specific requirements and should provide guidance on how to email you (email etiquette, emailing you from UNF accounts), what to refer to you as (Dr., Professor), etc. Providing this guidance can help make visible your expectations for students outside of your graded assessments, which can help with their long-term professional development. Language may include:

 

My hope is that email communication between us can help you prepare for professional communication in the workplace. As such, I ask that you address me using my honorific (Dr.) and that you use a salutation (e.g., Dear Dr. <insert last name>). I recommend reading Corrigan and McNabb’s article about students emailing professors. I do not want you to stress about your emails to me; these will not be graded. If you do not know how to ask something about a class assignment, etc., I can help you consider phrasing! I may provide you with feedback about your email communication so I can support you in your professional development.