Faculty across the nation are struggling with how to address, or not address, election results and new administration priorities in their classrooms. Some students are excited about where the nation is headed and are concerned about retribution for speaking up. Other students are deeply concerned about themselves or loved ones and what new policies may mean for their lives. Instructional faculty can be in a difficult position as students will come to your class after the inauguration with varied expectations, compounded by the fact that you have your own opinions about where the nation is headed. One place we can set up norms and guidelines is in the syllabus which is why I am bringing this to you now, before your Spring syllabi are finalized.
In the campus “Free Speech Training” many of us attended I learned an important lesson that may help in syllabus creation—we can have a civility policy. Regulating speech is extremely difficult and for good reason, but there is a good argument to be made that maintaining an atmosphere of civility is critical to the educational environment of the classroom. San Jose City College encourages such wording and the campus has drafted some possible language that might be a good starting point for your own policy. Look for some material specific to Chico in the coming weeks.
When I was involved with the Chico Great Debate we hosted conversations on hot button issues every semester. One debate featured Tea Party Activists and Occupy Wall Street protesters engaging over use of public land. We also hosted contentious debates on affirmative action, private security forces, the death penalty, and everything in between. There were always moments of tension, but setting the expectation of civility prior to the debates made a difference for us, and it can for the classroom as well.
Dr. Sara Cooper has provided additional Book in Common Material. Check out this section of the CELT page for regular synopsis updates, discussion questions, and other resources.
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