3 comments

  1. Hunh. I would not answer these questions in any of the ways Alex describes in his essay. In fact, my answer would come from more of a Universal Design standpoint: that when I design a class, I try to become more aware of what the barriers to success are for students in my classes, and to remove barriers in ways that increase opportunities for success. Everything I do helps all students, but the key is awareness. For example, for students from low-income backgrounds, access to expensive textbooks can be difficult. So before the start of every semester, I do the following things:
    – Ask the library to put the first two chapters of the textbook up on our e-reserves so that students who want to order cheaper used books can do the reading for the first week or two easily while they wait for their book to arrive in the mail.
    – Include a variety of textbook ordering options in the syllabus with approximate prices. It only takes me half an hour or so to do a quick search as I’m putting together my syllabus to see how much new, used, and rental copies are currently going for from the major retailers, but it can really help students who might not even know that those options exist or what the differences in pricing are.
    – Ask the library to place several copies of the text on 24-hour reserve, so that for students who can’t even afford used/rental copies, they can be assured that it will always be available for them in the library.
    – During my first class, I directly acknowledge that textbooks are expensive and explicitly talk about why I chose the book(s) I chose, and all of the different ways to access them during the class.

    I could give other examples along these lines, like the way I scaffold exercises so that students get credit for learning from their mistakes, and the way I give “second chances” in grading (e.g., for my fresh/soph gateway course, I always offer to drop the first midterm grade for students who improve on the second midterm, since all of my exams are cumulative), so that students with less preparation have a chance to catch up and adjust to the higher expectations of our university, as long as they can demonstrate mastery later in the semester.

    This is not rocket science, and it’s not even “compassion” (the word that Alex uses in the article), but it amazes me how many faculty don’t do simple things to make their courses more equitable and inclusive.

  2. Thanks for the link. I very much appreciated the distinction that’s set up in the essay between diversity and disadvantage, which I do think is critical from both philosophical and practical standpoints. (Also appreciate Lyra’s comment above, esp. with regard to financial barriers to success.) But in a very practical way, many search committees DO want to “diversify” applicant pool, which can be sometimes signaled in those diversity statements. (In that respect, in those circumstances, the issue really isn’t about mentoring or teaching but actual identity.)

  3. Alex is always a class act, and I see the IHE commenters are still a bunch of knuckledraggers.

    I like the idea of asking candidates if they plan to be engaged, dedicated teachers, or if they will use every trick to get out of teaching. Maybe not in those words.

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