Some Syllabus Language That Might Be Useful

Please feel free to incorporate the following statements in your syllabus. I had so much to learn from, among others, Lauren Alpert’s global ethics syllabus, Alison Reiheld’s feminist theory syllabus, Amy Shuster’s political and social philosophy syllabus, and so many of the syllabi shared by graduate students in the UA philosophy department. If you have any feedback or suggestions for improvement, I’d love to know! (Last updated: May 2022)

Table of Contents

  1. Respect, Support, and Care for One Another
  2. Student Support Resources
  3. (Lack of) Diversity in Philosophy
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1. Respect, Support, and Care for One Another

Materials in This Course

Since many of the issues we will cover in this course are not only intellectually but also personally relevant, you might find it difficult to read and discuss certain course materials. I want to acknowledge that. It’s perfectly understandable.

It’s therefore important that we respect, support, and care for one another throughout the course. Please always feel free to talk to me if you anticipate certain topics will be especially difficult for you, or if you think the way they get discussed in the class is disrespectful or otherwise problematic.

How to Respect, Support, and Care for One Another

Here are some concrete examples of how you can respect, support and care for your classmates and instructor:

Class Discussions

  • Value everyone’s contribution to class discussions;
  • Disagree in a way that takes other people’s ideas seriously and sincerely;
  • Challenge remarks, jokes and examples that are racist, sexist, heterosexist, cissexist, misogynistic, transmisogynistic, xenophobic, ableist, ageist, classist, etc.;
  • Keep discussions inclusive by avoiding talking to only a few specific people;
  • [For online discussion boards] Be mindful of how your tone/meaning might not be accurately conveyed through your writing alone (for example, if your question might be misunderstood as a rhetorical one, it’s probably a good idea to indicate explicitly that it is a genuine question);
  • [For Zoom classes] Please use your go-by name as your Zoom display name and, if you feel comfortable and safe doing so, include your pronouns as well. [Note to instructors: Please never require or pressure students to share their pronouns, which could create an especially stressful double-bind situation for trans/nonbinary students who are not openly out—now they have to choose between misgendering themselves or being forced to come out. That’s not okay! Also, please take note when a student changes their name or pronouns in the middle of the semester, but don’t ask questions and don’t make a big deal out of it—just naturally switch how you refer to the student from then on. For in-person classes, it’s helpful to make it clear at the beginning of the semester that you understand people’s names and pronouns can change and invite students to let you know any such changes if they feel comfortable and safe. (There are too many good reasons why a student may not feel comfortable or safe to share their pronouns, so don’t push anyone and don’t blame yourself for not doing enough.)]

Classroom Behavior

  • Try to remain quiet if you have to arrive late or leave early;
  • Avoid starting to pack things up until class is completely over;
  • Listen attentively and avoid distracting or interrupting behavior, such as chatting with the person next to you or checking your phone.

Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

  • Use the pronouns and name you are asked to when you refer to a person; [Note to instructors: Again, please don’t create any pressure on students to share their pronouns (for example, don’t just say “let’s go around the room and share our names, pronouns, majors, and years”). But if a student does share what pronouns they use, make sure to use only those pronouns (it is still misgendering, for example, to use the gender-neutral they/them pronouns to refer to a student who exclusively uses gender-specific she/her pronouns); and if they do not share their pronouns, default to they/them. Be prepared that you or a student will probably slip up once in a while. When that happens, just quickly correct yourself/the student and move on—don’t pretend you didn’t notice it, but also don’t overreact and especially don’t overapologize (it draws unnecessary and often unwanted attention). If a student uses more than one set of pronouns (e.g., he/they), make a conscious effort to switch between them from time to time. Even though doing such little things as using the correct pronouns and names might not seem to matter that much to you, it can often mean the whole world to a trans/nonbinary student.]
  • Avoid assuming a person’s pronouns, gender identity or sexual orientation based on their appearance, voice or name; [Note to instructors: Please also don’t assume someone’s gender identity based on their pronouns. Pronouns are just one aspect of our gender expression (it’s like wearing a suit doesn’t by itself imply the person is a man, even though many men express their gender identity through wearing a suit rather than a dress—as Leslie Feinberg puts it more elegantly than I ever could, “gender is the poetry each of us makes out of the language we are taught”), and there are good reasons (sometimes even safety-related reasons) for a student to use pronouns not conventionally associated with a gender identity. Don’t police it.]
  • Be careful not to disclose anyone’s gender identity or sexual orientation (i.e., out them) without their permission, even if they are already out in the classroom—it can put lives in danger;
  • Never inquire about anyone’s genitalia, deadname, “before” photos, medical history, assigned gender at birth, sex life, and so on;
  • Use inclusive language (for helpful examples, see https://www.apaonline.org/page/nonsexist and https://transjournalists.org/style-guide).

If you feel any aspect of this course makes it difficult for you to participate fully, I want to know. This is very important to me.

2. Student Support Resources

Campus Health

Crisis Resources

Student Assistance

Advising

Writing

Food Bank

Child Care

LGBTQ+

Disability

3. (Lack of) Diversity in Philosophy

Unfortunately, philosophy as an institutionalized discipline is remarkably white, cis male, straight, able-bodied, and middle-class. This lack of diversity is often apparent just from the topics and authors typically taught in introductory philosophy courses. However, philosophy as a whole is becoming more and more diverse thanks to the efforts of several generations of philosophers. As a philosophy student, you can also help the profession address its diversity and inclusiveness problems by engaging with minority authors seriously and supporting your fellow minority students.

The American Philosophical Association (APA) has a useful handout for minority undergraduate students in philosophy, which you can read here: https://www.apaonline.org/resource/resmgr/diversity/Advice_for_Undergrads.pdf.

A valuable local opportunity is the Arizona Feminist Philosophy Graduate Conference organized annually by graduate students at the UA Department of Philosophy. The conference takes place in the spring semester. It brings together graduate students working on feminist issues from all around the country and the world. You can find more information and watch recordings of past talks at https://femphilaz.com.