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COVID-19 information and updates

Find the most recent updates here, as well as FAQs and information for students, faculty and staff.

What can you do?

A Brief Note

It can be easy to actively seek solutions to a lack of safety in the classroom rather than attending to and grappling with the factors contributing to these issues. However, we urge you to take some time to explore the root causes of these concerns, which have been identified by students in our study and extensively covered in existing literature. 

Additionally, we understand that some ideas we’ve proposed in this section of the tab are not comprehensive, nor do they fully address the issues identified by key stakeholders. However, many of the themes presented have been identified for decades by marginalized students as being important steps toward making classrooms safer, while also understanding that the current Eurocentric, colonial structure of postsecondary education will sustain these issues.

 

Recommendations

Recommendations

- Resist impulses of white fragility, white tears, white rage, white denial, and white guilt. Challenge any desire to centre your own feelings and reactions when a racialized student approaches you with feedback or concerns. This involves engaging in critical self-reflection about your biases, values, and assumptions and requires you to lean into the discomfort of unlearning.

- Facilitate dialogues about what a safer space looks like for people in the room. This can be done by co-creating a group guidelines contract with your students so you can all begin to think about how classrooms can be open and respectful. Introducing group guidelines could include:

1) Explain why group guidelines are important and how they set the standard for facilitating an open, respectful, and accountable classroom environment

2) Encourage students to share their own ideas about what they see as important to safety in the classrooms. This can be done through google forms and other anonymous feedback methods, small group discussions, or an open sharing circle in the first class (dependent on class size)

3) Share your own ideas for what safety looks like and why you feel it is important. For example, you could introduce the concept of “intent versus impact,” where everyone must be accountable for the effects of what they say, regardless of potential good intentions

4) Collaboratively outline steps that could be taken to ensure these guidelines are adhered to, including what can be done if someone missteps, how students can support each other, and how accountability can be imagined (and destigmatized)

5) Ask the class what they expect from you around facilitating classroom safety and outline the steps you will take to redress missteps or harms - hold yourself accountable to this!

6) Create a copy of the guidelines that are readily available and accessible to everyone

- Thoughtfully and intentionally dedicate space and attention to discussions of racism. Don’t make it optional or tertiary; rather, think about ways that you can attend to race, racism, and racialization in various ways throughout the course.

- Call-in/call out racism as it occurs in the classroom. According to Tiffany Jewell, "calling in" refers to private, interpersonal steps that one can take to redress problematic behaviour (e.g. pulling someone aside and explaining why what they did was harmful), while "calling out" refers to publicly naming something as harmful and holding the person accountable in front of a group. There are ways to do so that don’t make it uncomfortable for everyone:

1) “Thank you for sharing your thoughts. However, I think about it in this way…”

2) “Would you mind if I challenged you on that perspective/idea?” OR "Could I expand on your point and take it a different way?"

3) "I think that what you're saying is indicative of a popular assumption about..."

4) “Have you considered…”

5) “I agree with you on _____, but I don’t agree on _____”

6) “Can we revisit this conversation at another time?”

- For instances where harmful language is used, you should establish what is not tolerated firmly and clearly. You can refer back to the group guidelines to do so. This might make a racialized student feel more comfortable as they could now trust that you will not force them to undertake the labour of calling in/out or educating others.

- Redirect students that may be putting racialized students on the spot, such as asking them questions as it relates to their identity and expecting them to answer on behalf of that identity marker. Do not make racialized students undertake that labour.

- As mistakes, missteps, and misunderstandings are inevitable, be accountable. Acknowledge your mistake publicly, don’t be afraid to apologize, and ensure that you are creating space for folks to share their own feelings and experiences as well. If a student comes to you with an issue, thank them for doing so.

- Continuously solicit feedback about your teaching, which can be done, such as through an anonymous google form that is open throughout the duration of the course.

- Check-in with students that are affected by harm happening in the classroom. You can chat with them privately after class if they are comfortable talking to you; if they are not, respect their wishes. 

- Provide trigger warnings when you are discussing racism and other topics that might have adverse impacts on students.

- Do not use educational content that is harmful (e.g. videos that depict racist violence, readings that use pejorative language, etc.)

- Educate yourself on these issues and do not ask racialized students to explain them to you or to the class. Seek out training, workshops, public talks, and other resources so that you are staying up-to-date on these topics.

- If you want to work with a racialized student or you wish to garner their feedback, provide them with a fully paid opportunity that adequately compensates them for their labour. Do not ask that they do this for free.

- Invite and compensate guest speakers with lived experiences, and invite class suggestions for guest speakers.

- Add content to syllabi that is diverse and represents a broad range of epistemologies and lived experiences. De-centre and challenge whiteness openly and intentionally to foster critical analysis. Frequently update course outlines to reflect the current sociopolitical climate.

- Include and apply a race lens in discussions of all social issues. Don’t silo discussions of race from other dialogues.

- Always recognize and attend to histories of harm, violence, racism, confluence, etc. in course content for whatever you are teaching. 

- Be accommodating and understanding of racialized students’ experiences. If they require academic support or other services, do not demand disclosure or explanation. Have campus resources available and on-hand to ensure you are equipped to direct the student to an appropriate resource.