Equity and Inclusion
Members of any community should be committed to treating each other with respect, consideration, and sensitivity. 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. There are 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. And we all lose if that happens, because we need to hear from a wide range of voices on the basic problems we discuss.
So it’s especially important for us to have a climate that’s 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. Commitment to the values of collegiality, respect, and sensitivity 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 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.
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. Despite our need to hear from a wide range of voices, women and members of various ethnic groups remain severely underrepresented in Philosophy. Recent empirical research has found implicit biases that reinforce historical patterns of exclusion and underrepresentation. To combat them, we need to understand how they work. It’s not enough to rely on common sense and good intentions, since even if you’re conscientiously striving to treat others equitably you may be in the grip of subconscious processes that distort your 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.
There are different types of problem that can come up. You can expect to be heard sympathetically by any of the faculty or staff. Faculty and staff have an obligation to report to the Title IX officer any conduct prohibited under the University’s Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy. So too do GSIs, if their undergraduate reports to them in their capacity as GSI. Prohibited conduct includes sexual violence and sexual harassment, stalking, relationship violence, retaliation. The full SVSH policy is here:
You should feel free to talk to any faculty, but any of the Department Chair, the Equity Officer, the Graduate and Undergraduate Advisors are also natural people to contact. 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).
It can also happen that you want to talk in confidence to someone who you know has no obligation to report the matter further, or simply someone outside the department, or someone who can give specific professional help. In any of these cases we’d strongly encourage you to look at the resources here:
In many cases the PATH to Care center will be a natural first place to call: (510) 642-1988.
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.
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.