The eighth annual meeting of the Diversity, Inclusiveness, and Equality (DIE) track at the 2011 APSA Teaching and Learning Conference focused on issues of difference, diversity, and equality as they relate to political science classrooms, departments, and institutions. This year, DIE included 22 participants and seven research papers on a broad range of issues. Subject matter included the incorporation of diversity topics into political science curriculum, the impact of campus demographics and diversity, and challenges faced by faculty in teaching diversity in politics.
Based on their experiences in the classroom and the relevant literature in the field, DIE participants from the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia added an international perspective to a rich and lively discussion. Three main themes emerged from presentations, discussions, and related workshops: (1) tensions within the professoriate, (2) responsibilities of political scientists concerning issues of diversity and inclusiveness, and (3) participants' commitments to future efforts. These themes include key issues such as altruism, accountability, and assurance. This report summarizes these themes and discusses the next steps for the track.
I. Tensions within the Professoriate
Little scholarly research has been conducted to examine how professors address tensions arising from facing two conflicting needs when teaching traditionally underrepresented students. We want these students to play by the rules, complete their education, and be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Many times, we want them to critically analyze and recognize the need to deconstruct (or at least restructure) the unfair political system that has historically placed undue burdens on their marginalized groups in regard to achieving social mobility.
Junior faculty members face a similar dilemma concerning their professional careers when they address DIE issues in their classrooms and institutions. They fear that promoting diversity will be difficult because of the institutional culture that exists at some schools, which may negatively affect these faculty members' opportunities for grants, tenure, promotion, or publication. As the well-read “Uncle Wuffle's Advice to the Assistant Professor” teaches us, “at faculty meetings and elsewhere, assistant professors should be seen but not heard” and should “never volunteer” (Wuffle Reference Wuffle1993).
At the same time, DIE track members acknowledge that we, the political scientists, are all in a unique position of power to become agents of change and make students and naysayers realize that racial, gender, class, and sexual discrimination all still exist. To what extent are we willing and committed to sacrifice our personal successes for the good of the political science community and for the students who expect us to set an example of juggling the two? This was one of the most difficult questions that the track members examined, and we will continue to explore it at the next TLC meeting.
II. Responsibilities of Political Scientists in Issues of Diversity and Inclusiveness
As we acknowledge the existence of the oft-neglected tensions, it has also become evident to us that we have an inescapable and unavoidable responsibility to speak up about what we believe is right and beneficial to our students. One paper (Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera and Oralia De los Reyes, “Measuring Up Student Success: Discovering Factors Contributing to Student Success in a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) in South Texas”) focused on teaching political science in Spanish to native Spanish-speaking students at a large Hispanic-serving institution (HSI). This study found that compared to students in the English-speaking section, students in the Spanish-speaking section were more engaged in discussions, earned higher grades, were better able to think critically about American political systems, and expressed a higher sense of satisfaction about the coursework.
These findings may provoke English-only nationalist policymakers, as well as college administrators who may already be concerned about the “balkanization” of campuses. We have to remind ourselves that if we keep silent about our findings, we will remain a part of the system that has historically deprived people who are “different” of their rightful opportunities. In addition to taking a new approach to assisting students in the classroom, we recognize that we are also capable of assisting students outside of the classroom to generate more support at historically white institutions (HWI).
III. Commitments of Participants to Future Efforts
In the past two years at the TLC, the DIE track members stopped short of making a firm commitment to going one step further to take action. This year, the DIE track participants made a firm commitment to fulfilling their obligation by adopting a five-year Diversity in Political Science Education (DIPSE) Action Plan. In the next five years, we expect to complete the following projects:
Create a DIPSE support website. In the past, we have entertained the possibility of creating a website to facilitate DIE education; however, the plan has not yet materialized. The proposed website will be consistent with several APSA organized sections that currently post syllabi; in addition, the DIPSE site will post links to video clips, simulations, and annotated bibliographies to assist professors interested in infusing diversity into their curricula.
Offer a TLC workshop. We would like to directly communicate with instructors who have questions about revising their curricula to include DIE issues.
Offer a short course at the APSA Annual Meeting. We plan to develop a short course in teaching DIE issues.
Publish APSA booklets in a DIE “how to” series. This project is an extension of our web project and our workshop and short course plans. The series is designed to offer practical approaches to creating DIE courses. Topics may include but are not limited to race/ethnicity, LGBT, social class, religious orientation, intersectionality, and global perspectives. The series will result in an APSA book series commensurate with publications on assessment and civic engagement.