Diversity Statement on a Syllabus
Including a diversity statement on your syllabus can signal to your students your commitment to creating an inclusive and supportive climate for all students (see a review of research and strategies on teaching inclusively). In August 2020, Faculty Senate voted to recommend including a diversity statement in CMU syllabi. You may write your own statement (see the prompt questions and suggestions below) or adopt/adapt the language recommended by Faculty Senate (see Sample 1) or one of the other samples below.
When creating a diversity statement for your syllabus, please consider the following questions:
- How do you, concretely, recognize and value diversity in your classroom? (For instance, do you have systems in place to ensure everyone's voice will be heard? Do you use a variety of examples to illustrate concepts? Do you have guidelines for respectful discussions?)
- How can diversity – as represented in your discipline, course content, and classroom – be an asset for learning?
- How will issues related to diversity arise in your course and classroom? And, how will you handle them (ideally) when they do? (For instance, does your discipline or course content explicitly or implicitly raise sensitive or controversial topics related to diversity and inclusion? How might students from different social and cultural backgrounds respond to disciplinary norms?)
- Do you seek input from your students on classroom climate (i.e., to what extent they feel included and how)?
- What relevant resources exist on campus that could be useful to your students (e.g., Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Intercultural Communication Center, Office of Title IX Initiatives)?
A few suggestions to consider about your diversity statement:
Although we provide samples below, they are intended to be illustrative of one or more of the principles above, rather than to function as “boilerplate” language.
Your statement should articulate to your students why being inclusive matters to you, specifically, and how that relates to your discipline, course, and desired classroom climate.
It can be helpful to consider your discipline's history with underrepresented groups, and how disciplinary conventions might work to facilitate or become obstacles to inclusion.
After drafting your statement, check whether the rest of your syllabus and course design matches your diversity statement in tone and spirit, that is to say, is also positive and inclusive (see additional resources on creating an inclusive learning environment):
Be inclusive by recognizing different types of diversity in your statement.
Sample 1 - Recommended language from Faculty Senate
We must treat every individual with respect. We are diverse in many ways, and this diversity is fundamental to building and maintaining an equitable and inclusive campus community. Diversity can refer to multiple ways that we identify ourselves, including but not limited to race, color, national origin, language, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, ancestry, belief, veteran status, or genetic information. Each of these diverse identities, along with many others not mentioned here, shape the perspectives our students, faculty, and staff bring to our campus. We, at CMU, will work to promote diversity, equity and inclusion not only because diversity fuels excellence and innovation, but because we want to pursue justice. We acknowledge our imperfections while we also fully commit to the work, inside and outside of our classrooms, of building and sustaining a campus community that increasingly embraces these core values.
Each of us is responsible for creating a safer, more inclusive environment.
Unfortunately, incidents of bias or discrimination do occur, whether intentional or unintentional. They contribute to creating an unwelcoming environment for individuals and groups at the university. Therefore, the university encourages anyone who experiences or observes unfair or hostile treatment on the basis of identity to speak out for justice and support, within the moment of the incident or after the incident has passed. Anyone can share these experiences using the following resources:
- Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion: firstname.lastname@example.org, (412) 268-2150
- Report-It online anonymous reporting platform: reportit.net username: tartans password: plaid
All reports will be documented and deliberated to determine if there should be any following actions. Regardless of incident type, the university will use all shared experiences to transform our campus climate to be more equitable and just.
“Respect for Diversity: It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served 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.”
Source: University of Iowa College of Education
“The topics that we’re covering in this class are often difficult, not just intellectually but emotionally. While I expect there to be rigorous discussion and even disagreement in the course of our class discussions, I ask that you engage in discussion with care and empathy for the other members in the classroom. Aim to disagree without becoming disagreeable. In this class we will not shy away from the uncomfortable. Critically examining and assessing our most basic assumptions and values is not just one of the tasks of philosophy but is an activity vital to living an authentic life. I urge you to have the courage to the uncomfortable in this class. In exchange for your courage, I will work to ensure a classroom environment that supports your taking these intellectual and emotional risks.”
Source: Whitman College
"All people have the right to be addressed and referred to in accordance with their personal identity. In this class, we will have the chance to indicate the name that we prefer to be called and, if we choose, to identify pronouns with which we would like to be addressed...I will do my best to address and refer to all students accordingly and support classmates in doing so as well."
Source: University of Michigan, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
“‘A university is a place where the universality of the human experience manifests itself.’
-Albert Einstein In keeping with the spirit of Einstein’s viewpoint, the Department of Communication Studies is committed to providing an atmosphere of learning that is representative of a variety of perspectives. In this class, you will have the opportunity to express and experience cultural diversity as we focus on issues such as: gender and communication in small groups, communication in the multicultural group, and cross-cultural and intercultural
work group communication. In addition, writing assignments and daily activities have been designed to encourage individuality and creative expression. You are encouraged to not only take advantage of these opportunities in your own work, but also, learn from the information and ideas shared by other students.”
Source: University of Alabama, Department of Communication Studies