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« How can we help you? (October 2019) | Main | Unconventional teaching ideas that work: training students to communicate to 'non-academic' audiences (Guest post by Andy Fisher) »

10/18/2019

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Search Committee Member

This is my first time serving on a committee, but I have one comment after looking through the first batch of applications: I think these remarks come across as more genuine and helpful when you can describe not just what you do, but what impacts you've seen from what you do. Saying that you include non-canonical texts just sounds like checking off a box. It's much better to describe how much your students enjoyed reading Germaine de Stael and how inclusive the discussion was on those days.

I would also add that you should be prepared to answer these questions in interviews, particularly (in my limited experience) if the school's interviewing procedure includes questions from graduate students.

Michel

One thing I do is contextualize those statements with respect to my teaching goals and practices. So, when I mention that my syllabi make an effort to include non-canonical voices, that's part of my explanation for not using the Great Man model, and for addressing the kinds of contemporary issues that my student body is most interested in learning about.

So none of the measures I mention exist in isolation; I always bring them back to my broader pedagogical goals, and my strategies for engaging my diverse, mostly international, mostly ESL student body, and for meeting their particular classroom needs. Syllabus design is one aspect of this, but don't forget the design of your assessments, and how they help to articulate and reinforce your pedagogical aims.

A skeptic who is fed up (and, gasp, not white)

I'm a minority and I find these requirements terrible in many ways. I understand it, of course. It might be motivated by good intentions. But it's often a vague, heavy-handed way of trying to create equality. It doesn't really work and I wish if it was more clearly defined, especially because philosophers, who are the most nit-picky people on earth, should come up with a better, more clear definition. Some (maybe many?) of them, I suspect, don't actually do anything of real sacrifice to help minorities in any concrete ways. Sad, but true.

Oh my advice? Just say how much you care about diversity (which you should) and forget about it, because they don't really pay much attention.

a nervous wreck of course

Any thoughts on length? I'm tempted to aim for a single-paged, single-spaced, tight statement, but that will require me to skip discussing a pedagogical technique I use (blind grading). At the same time, that technique doesn't quite fit the 'narrative' of the statement so far anyway, and might look like small potatoes...Thoughts?

A Non-Mouse

Contrary to what "A skeptic" says, committee members at some schools do actually pay attention to and take seriously what applicants say. And requirements like it do make difference at some schools. They make it easy to identify and eliminate people who don't care much about equity-related issues, which can serve to promote the goals of some schools.

If you care enough about equity and diversity, and have a bit of teaching experience, you should find it somewhat easy to come up with the "right " things to say. Otherwise, maybe you shouldn't apply.

anon

Original Poster hereL

A skeptic: I certainly see your skepticism (haha) about these types of statements but alas, these are a requirement for the job market and a practical reality.

A Non-Mouse: I respect that you disagree with skeptic but how is your advice at all helpful?

I asked this question in a general spirit of curiosity and being told not to apply if I don't know the "right" thing to say is fairly mean-spirited.

A Non-Mouse

Anon, sorry that my comment came off as mean spirited. I didn't intend it that way. I simply meant to suggest that the requirement is meant to weed out people of a certain sort for the purposes of hiring someone of another sort. The requirement is just like requirements concerning AOS. If you can't make a case for having the relevant AOS, you shouldn't apply. Similarly, if you can't figure out the "right" things to say, you shouldn't apply. Again, I'm sorry this point seemed mean spirited as I expressed it before. I hope this clears things up...

a nervous wreck of course

Can I politely bump my earlier question? I feel like Skeptic is going to draw a bunch of attention and everyone is going to start arguing about the justificatory status of diversity letters and thereby ignore, you know, the actual grad student facing them who has an actual question...

Anon

a nervous wreck, I agree strongly with what some posters have said above: somewhat like teaching statements, what makes these statements good is your being concrete and focusing on how you in particular have acted on some of the general principles that you think are good principles.

To follow up on one thing you mentioned in the OP: "I make sure I include non-canonical texts in my courses." - this is fine theme to talk about. But I would make it more specific through mentioning and talking about some specific text that you've used, in particular a lesser known one that might surprise readers a bit, why you chose it, how it improves your course, and so on.

Karl

Some places have HR requirements describing how diversity, equity, and Inclusion statements are to be evaluated. Here is Berkeley's. Use it to mold your statement. Tailor it to the philosophers who will interview you. https://ofew.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/rubric_to_assess_candidate_contributions_to_diversity_equity_and_inclusion.pdf

Chris

Nervous wreck: Karl's link is a good guide for how to think about these in the abstract. As far as length, I'd try to keep it to one page, if at all possible. Some of the things you want to talk about are perhaps better treated in a teaching statement.

Also (small, perhaps pedantic point), I'm not sure if you do this, but I'd be reluctant to say "blind grading" in a diversity statement - "anonymous grading" is safer.

Nicolas

as with teaching statements, though, it's worth pointing out the catch 22 of following the advice: it's nearly impossible to be both comprehensive and concrete enough with remaining succinct. a concise document that has any chance of being actually read carefully by anyone simply can't go into the meaningful details that should reasonably go into such a statement.

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