Tips for nurturing a climate of free expression and inclusion
In recent years, conversations about free expression and diversity and inclusion on campus have become particularly contentious. Students have reported being demeaned for their identity or beliefs, leading them to feel unwelcome and in some cases unsafe. Faculty can play a key role in facilitating a campus culture—in the classroom and beyond—that helps all feel empowered to express themselves freely.
Set the tone for respectful engagement in your classroom and in conversations on campus.
Recognize that the landscape for free speech is not always equitable depending on individual’s positions, , identities, or other factors, and that power dynamics also play a role in how free people’s speech really is in a given context. who feels they enjoy free speech and who does not. Acknowledging this up front in a classroom or any discussion can help everyone to keep these power dynamics in mind in efforts to facilitate equitable spaces for dialogue open to all voices.
Specify on your syllabus and during the first session that your class will promote free expression, open inquiry, and debate.
Find opportunities to teach students about free expression, diversity, and inclusion as bedrock values of a democratic society.
Facilitate opportunities for debate and disagreement in your classroom and on campus.
Be mindful of any unconscious biases that may influence whom you choose to mentor or with whom you choose to collaborate.
Host guest speakers from a diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints in class or elsewhere on campus. You may invite some speakers specifically to engage them in debate.
If students seem reluctant to speak up in class because of their political views, invite them to office hours to reiterate your commitment to free expression and inclusion in the classroom.
As a faculty member, you have more power than an average student to stand up to the administration or to advocate for free speech and inclusion in your department or on your campus. If free expression appears in jeopardy, push for change.
Periodically reflect on your pedagogical practices regarding free expression and inclusion, confer with other faculty, and consider changing your approach, as you would with other facets of your professional development.