Equity and Inclusion

General principles

Members of any community should be committed to treating each other with respect, consideration, and sensitivity. We take this commitment to be uncontroversial, and a basic principle of modern social life. It follows from this principle that sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and targeted hostility have no place in a well-regulated community, whatever its nature. People deserve to be treated with consideration, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or political and religious outlook.

But there may be special reasons for members of a philosophical community to be committed to a climate of respect and mutual consideration. Philosophy is an exceptionally challenging intellectual discipline. At its best, it can be exhilarating to understand an initially opaque text or to develop a new philosophical account of some important issue or problem. But the sheer difficulty of philosophy also makes it both intellectually and emotionally fraught at times. It is easy to feel that you aren’t smart enough to figure out an argument or position that you are working on. The very things that make philosophical inquiry so interesting and important can also leave us feeling vulnerable and exposed.

Against this background, it seems especially important to maintain a climate for intellectual activity that is collegial, respectful, and conducive to focused and productive inquiry. Attitudes and behavior that are hostile or demeaning to members of our community, or that detract from the ability of our students, staff, and colleagues to focus effectively on their work, are very difficult to reconcile with the demands of philosophical reflection. Seen in this light, a commitment to the values of collegiality, respect, and sensitivity is not ancillary to the philosophical enterprise, but arguably something that grows out of a proper appreciation for the nature and difficulty of philosophical activity itself.

Some basic standards of respectful interaction within an academic community are matters of simple common sense. There are also several university policies that serve to clarify expectations and provide guidance. Of course, questions often arise that are more complex and challenging. Rather than trying to stay on the right side of a fine line, however, we encourage faculty, staff, and students to strive for real collegiality, conducting themselves in a way that is genuinely respectful and supportive rather than merely acceptable or minimally appropriate.

Philosophy is a discipline in which women and members of various ethnic groups remain severely underrepresented. We all have a responsibility to work hard to ensure that everyone who is interested in our subject feels welcome within our community, and to create a climate that is accommodating, respectful, and inclusive, especially for women and members of historically underrepresented groups. Recent empirical research has uncovered many forms of implicit bias that can distort our reactions to individuals in ways that reinforce historical patterns of exclusion and underrepresentation. To combat these tendencies, we need to understand their operation, and to subject our practices to critical scrutiny in the light of the best contemporary research about them. This is definitely an area in which it is not sufficient to rely on common sense and peoples’ good intentions, since even those who are conscientiously striving to treat others equitably may be in the grip of subconscious processes that distort their thinking.

Procedures for reporting and resolving problems

While we hope that everyone will be committed to the values of collegiality and mutual respect, we’re aware that even in a generally well-functioning community there can be incidents of discrimination and harassment, and it is very important that these be addressed. So we strongly urge you to seek help and support if you think you have experienced or witnessed discrimination, harassment, or a climate of hostility and exclusion in the Philosophy Department. Any member of the faculty or staff whom you trust is a suitable contact person. But you can always turn to the Department Chair, the Equity Advisor, the Undergraduate and Graduate Advisors, or the university resources listed below. These and other members of the Department or the Campus are also available for advice about your own behavior, especially in cases in which common sense might not be a reliable guide (e.g. when classroom discussions turn to issues that are especially controversial or to positions that it is unsettling to think about).

When dealing with sensitive concerns about discrimination or harassment, we will strive to treat these with discretion, respecting the privacy of individuals insofar as possible; in some cases, however, policy or law may require that department members contact an appropriate university authority. We note that university policy prohibits retaliation against those who report incidents of harassment, intimidation, or violence, and against those who participate in the resolution of complaints of this nature.

Here is a list of university policies and resources. In particular, the ombuds offices offer confidential advice and assistance with dispute resolution, and counseling centers in University Health Services offer confidential counseling and support:

Additional resources

We strongly encourage every member of our community to become informed about the psychological and social mechanisms that can perpetuate patterns of exclusion and underrepresentation in our academic community, and to work constructively to overcome their effects. The following links take you to some resources, grouped by topic, that should be useful in this connection, as well as to some campus policies and procedures that bear on equity and inclusion.

General information about diversity and inclusiveness in philosophy

Teaching resources

Resources for students

Resources for faculty