¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 UMD’s general policies can be found at this link. Though these are directed toward undergraduate students, most of them will also be applicable to graduate coursework.
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I aspire to the principles of universal design, which state that maximizing accessibility for participants with disabilities improves learning environments for everyone. I try to minimize barriers posed by course structures and materials, and I will do my best to work with any student who requires specific accommodations for a disability even if it is not formally documented. Please let me know about any access needs as soon as you can, even if you aren’t sure how accommodations will work in the context of this class; I will work with you to figure out the best way of doing things. I promise to keep any details you share with me in confidence.
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A note on discussion
Racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and other abusive language is never acceptable in class discussion, in person or online. Yet we cannot discuss the history, practice, and necessity of feminist knowledge production without encountering such language, nor can we assume that we will share the same definitions, expectations, and attitudes toward it. We should try together to make sure that a spirit of openness characterizes the way we engage with one another’s contributions in the classroom and online – even as we pay close attention to the flows of power and privilege among and through our bodies. This should not mean ignoring offensive or hurtful words and actions, or hesitating to call out problems when you see them. It should, though, mean working from an assumption of collaboration rather than confrontation and appreciating both that discomfort is a necessary part of learning and that we are all in a state of constant change: what we say does not define who we are. If you are concerned that forms of unproductive discomfort or problematic power dynamics are emerging in our classroom, please speak to me as soon as you can; I will do all that I can to implement a change.
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A note on reading
The texts we will read in this class will challenge you in various ways, as they should. Some texts will make you angry, whether because of their content or their style; some texts will mystify you; some texts will make you fall in love. Those affective and political responses are important and should not be set aside. Nevertheless, our aim as scholars in this class should be to engage in a spirit of openness, giving each author the gift of a complex engagement that goes deeper than either agreement or disagreement. Attend to your initial response, but set it aside if you need to in order to read both critically and generously. How is this project shaped by its origins, location, and investments? What can you learn from it? If something seems to you to be missing, how would the project become different if it were included?
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A note on content
It is likely that many of our readings, as well as images and media shown in class by the professor or student presenters, will discuss and depict individual and collective violence and trauma. The issue of how to approach such content – to represent and discuss violence and oppression without perpetuating and reproducing them within the classroom space – is a topic of much discussion within feminist pedagogical circles at present, often shorthanded as the issue of “trigger warnings,” though I prefer to think in terms of content notes. An example of a content note policy I use for undergraduate classes can be accessed here: <http://lgbt200sp16.queergeektheory.org/policies/accessibility-content-and-discussion/>. I am still thinking through the role of a content note policy at the graduate level and hope to discuss this further with all of you, though I will certainly offer a heads-up before screening any audiovisual material that contains common triggers and will be happy to discuss any content-related access needs you may have in confidence. When you put together material for class presentations, I encourage you to think about what your own content policy will be and to share it with the class before you present.