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Faculty examine classroom diversity

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Jocelyn Arceo
Editor in Chief

In attempts to help professors address the current campus climate, the Faculty Diversity Committee, in collaboration with the Faculty Diversity Fellows of the Office of Diversity, have planned five workshops spanning from March 26 to May 1 to help faculty members address diversity while in the classroom.

The second workshop of the series, “Diversity and Inclusivity in the Classroom Setting; Strategies and Best Practices,” occurred Wednesday in the Campus Center Ballroom.

To a group of nearly 20 faculty members, Sylvia Mac, assistant professor of education, began discussion with a PowerPoint which explained the difference between implicit and explicit behavior in regards to both marginalization and centralization.

Implicit marginalization involves subtle and indirect actions of exclusion or discrimination against a certain group of people, while explicit marginalization is the opposite – the exclusionary actions are overtly hostile, discriminatory or unwelcoming, Mac said.

“People get very defensive because they think that, when the students who have done these protests, they are being called out as being explicitly marginalizing,” Mac said. “But, actually, we know that the most common is implicitly marginalizing, where we don’t realize we’re doing it.”

When it comes to centralization, to do so implicitly would mean validating alternative perspectives, particularly in an unplanned way.

On the contrary, building your course design to incorporate marginalized perspectives would then be considered explicitly centralization, something Mac said professors should work toward.

“It takes work to be in the explicitly centralizing category. We know what we know, we’ve read what we’ve read,” Mac said. “But, the first step is self-identification and self-learning. You guys are here today, which is good because you want to learn how to do this.”

Mac also touched on the importance of preferred terminology, providing a handout regarding outdated terms that many still use today without realizing the negative connotations behind such language.

An example given was the use of preferred pronouns. The most humane course of action would be to simply ask someone what they prefer, Mac said.

Sarah Dunn, associate professor of kinesiology, told the group at her table that the discussion of preferred gender pronouns had come up in her day prior when she told one of her students to include not only the male and female genders, but the various grouping of genders when it came to research.

“This changes her statistics, which is totally fine, but I think it’s really interesting to try to then bring up the conversation for what all the possibilities of gender are and how to categorize it,” Dunn said. “Whether we refer to them as male and female or men and women, or not, all of those things are conversations that will occur.”

Mac also pointed out that in facilitating these discussions, professors must be open with their students about the learning process, stating that being open allows for mistakes to be learned from and discussed over.

When professors are transparent from the beginning by setting guidelines for appropriate discussion and admitting that they are not perfect but are still trying, this will lead to a more positive learning environment, she said.

“If it’s safe for me to make mistakes, it’s safe for you to make a mistake also,” Mac said. “It’s creating that environment from the very beginning that I’m still learning these things and we’re all learning together.”

One of the final aspects that Mac touched on was the fact that the most efficient ways to contribute to explicitly centralizing is through the use of setting ground rules for discussion within the classroom setting.

Ground rules can go from not interrupting others, to being conscious of body language.

“We do it collectively as a group and write the rules together, I like them to come up with these and I feel like they feel more comfortable and it gives them ownership,” Cindy Giaimo-Ballard, associate professor of education, said. “They feel like they can have conversations and discussions, which I want them to do.”

Mac agreed, stating that having students involved in the process of making these rules for discussion allows for them to have a stake in said rules.

Because of this, students would thus be more inclined to stick to them because they tend to be harsher on themselves than many professors are led to believe, she said.

“It’s not about being a professional, or being trained, but being empathetic and being educated. We’re all educated and we can all continue to educate ourselves on this information,” Veronica Escoffery-Runnels, associate professor of education, said.

“Understanding diversity and inclusivity and all of these pieces is not a destination, it is a journey and a process.”

The next session in the series, “Diversity and Inclusivity Framework,” will be held at 11:45 a.m. April 17 at the Human Resources Training Center.

Jocelyn Arceo can be reached at

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