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06/04/2020

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Khang Ton

Thank you for your post. Do you have any advice on communicating anti-racism with undergraduate students? I sent a mass email to all the students in my class with a statement prepared by my dept MAP chapter, including some educational resources to combat anti-Black racism. But I worried that the message would make some students uncomfortable. One worry I have (perhaps I shouldn't be worried though) is the potential negative evals that criticize me for "making it political" in the class. Thank you again for all the advice and book recommendations.

Audrey Yap

Thanks for the question!

Communicating with students is sometimes tricky, particularly those you don't know well, and what you choose to do might also depend on your own institutional vulnerability. Tenure has made it relatively safe for me to make my politics quite clear. And during times of in person teaching, it was easy for me to signal that by, say, the posters up on my office. But still, you don't want to be in the position where a student says they got a bad grade in your class just because your politics and theirs didn't align. It's hard to stop those claims from happening altogether, but you can at least make sure that they don't have any real basis.

I tend to try, as much as I can, to meet students where they're at, though, and sometimes you just need the time for individual conversations to do that. I know sometimes those conversations had in public spaces can be hurtful to students who are really negatively impacted by racism. Hearing their peers talk in really un-nuanced or naive ways can be emotionally difficult, and I try not to make them deal with it any more than they already have to. But I'm also lucky that I've often had great groups of student advocates in my department. So that often the advocacy work I might hope for is already being done by others, including some of the relatively privileged white students who have a bit more emotional energy for this kind of engagement.

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