A Spotlight on our Daily Classroom Dynamics: It is time to Help Each Other Infusing Diversity, Plurality and Inclusion in our Classrooms
The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) aims to support faculty addressing diversity issues in the classroom by creating a professional -development structure focused on this matter. In doing so, the Center has been collaborating with the OAA Diversity fellow Prof. Nelson Nunez Rodriguez. This faculty member developed his responsibility based on the 2013-2018 Faculty Diversity Plan prepared by OAA and faculty recommendations derived from the COACHE survey conducted in 2014. Specifically, the CTL has collaborated with the diversity fellow exploring ways to support our adjunct faculty body and discussing models to systematize a dialogue about diversity, inclusion and plurality in our classrooms.
An open house for Adjunct Faculty was held during the Spring 2017. This initiative represents another effort from the Office of Academic Affairs to address faculty recommendations from the COACHE survey conducted in 2014. This practice has been offered every spring. During this Spring 2017 edition, the CTL in collaboration with the Diversity Fellow and Prof. Lizette Colon, invited Debra Bergen, the PSC CUNY Director of Contract Administration, to explain new contract and workload opportunities for the adjunct faculty cohort. Approximately 15 adjunct faculty members attended this informative session. They also had the opportunity to discuss diversity matters and how to proceed with student class misconduct with our Legal Designee Eugene Sohn. The session also provided information about faculty resources available in the library and in the Office of Educational Technology. Participants found this initiative informative and helpful. Indeed, they recommended holding the same presentation at different times in consideration of the often limited availability of adjunct faculty. Overall, the session was productive and sheds light on the need to improve our service to adjunct faculty, including engaging them in conversations revolving around diversity issues.
The CTL and the Diversity fellow have also held several conversations dedicated to diversity matters. Specifically, several faculty and staff members discussed ideas and potential frameworks that systematize a safe dialogue in our classrooms regarding diversity, inclusion, and plurality. All participants agreed that, regardless of specific course contents, all faculty members should be engaged in defining the meaning of diversity, inclusion, and plurality in our institution. Indeed, the successful experience developed by Prof. Eunice Flemister and Lisanette Rosario based on cultural-competency workshops was highlighted as a best practice that should be expanded. The CTL anticipates hosting Fall 2017 conversations on creating teachable moments revolving around visible and invisible diversity in the classrooms. This may be a way to start crafting a sustained approach to this critical matter.
The above-mentioned conversations were unescapably permeated by the current nationwide sociopolitical climate derived by the new administration in the White House. In this regard, faculty members pointed out the need to use our classrooms as intellectual venues to build a sense of togetherness and create dialogues where dissent is respected and the pursuit of knowledge can thrive. Most likely, our students do not have other venues to encounter different ideas and build understanding about our current world political climate. The dialogues held by CTL pointed out the need to define diversity, inclusion and plurality in our institution or at least, to have a functional framework to address the issue in the classrooms. In this regard, many angles of this conversation go beyond the classroom and require other institution constituent participation. The nationwide conversation on diversity points out that power and influence are required to craft meaningful diversity conversations. Indeed, many faculty members do not know how to begin. Naturally, many courses have assignments that expose students to analyze facts with a variety of lenses and to discuss it among students with different backgrounds. But still the definitions of diversity, plurality and inclusion appear nebulous. It is daunting to define exactly what and how integrate diversity in the classwork. These are the next frontiers for our conversations. On the bright side, we have many faculty members eager to be engaged in this endeavor. We should capitalize on our faculty rich intellectual and professional diversity to define intentional cross-cultural exchanges in our classrooms and to offer a variety of opportunities for students to understand, appreciate and respect multicultural differences using the intellectual rigor of the academic knowledge.
About the Author
Professional and Physical Sciences Coordinator
Natural Sciences Department
Nelson Nunez Rodriguez is a Professor of Chemistry, Unit Coordinator at Natural Sciences Department. He also serves as Faculty Fellow for assessment and diversity reporting to the institution provost. His current scholarship explores ways to develop scientific skills in urban college students. He received a Bachelor Degree in Biology from Havana University, Cuba in 1992, a Ph.D. in Chemistry from National University of Cordoba, Argentina in 2001 and, a four year-postdoctoral training at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.