Service A Bright Diversity Idea from Naomi Zack

A Bright Diversity Idea from Naomi Zack

by Naomi Zack

Administrators in higher education are often ahead of faculty in understanding the need for greater demographic diversity on campus. However, often their efforts do not have practical results because of the lack of connections with scholarly work. As scholars, we live in our disciplines (e.g., English, Anthropology, History, Philosophy) and as teachers we live in our departments. Often, departments already have courses related to issues of diversity in race and gender that are regularly taught and such courses may even be required by the institution or for department majors. These threads could be pulled together in the following way.

I am proposing a Diversity Focus for University of Oregon Philosophy Department majors and minors and also for PhD and MA students. This Diversity Focus would build on coursework that students already complete and give them an opportunity to reflect on diversity in terms of their studies in philosophy. It would have the following components, to be completed over four years.

  1. Successful completion of three diversity courses in philosophy, which are already on the curriculum.
  2. One-paragraph descriptions of attendance at or participation in 6 diversity events on the UO campus. These events could be in any venue, sponsored by any campus entity, or they may be Philosophy Department events.
  3. Successful completion of a 1 credit course on philosophical methods relevant to diversity.
  4. A pass/fail paper in which the student reflects on her academic experience of diversity in terms of her studies in philosophy.

Such a Diversity Focus program could be duplicated in other departments. The value of the focus would consist in employment assets, for both those with BAs or BSs or advanced degrees. The cost of the program would consist in payment for a faculty member to teach the 1 credit course as an overload and an honorarium for an advisor to keep track of those enrolled in the program, and their descriptions of attendance at diversity events. The standing Diversity Committee in the UO Philosophy Department would read the concluding pass/fail student papers but they could also be read by the program advisor in departments without such a committee.

What do you think?  Could this work in your department?  Let us know in the comment section below!  


Naomi Zack, PhD, Columbia University, is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oregon. Zack’s newest book is The Theory of Applicative Justice: An Empirical Pragmatic Approach to Correcting Racial Injustice (2016)Recent books include White Privilege and Black Rights: The Injustice of US Police Racial Profiling and Homicide (April 2015) and The Ethics and Mores of Race: Equality after the History of Philosophy (2011/2015).  Her most recent work is the 51-essay Oxford Handbook on Philosophy and Race (2017). More information about it here.



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