UMD’s general policies can be found at this link. The text below is a supplement to these policies and describes the principles I aim to follow in creating our classroom space.
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.
A note on discussion
Classes like this one, where we talk about identity and oppression, require us to be especially mindful of the ways in which we speak to and about one another. We’ll spend time in class figuring out what assumptions we make and where they come from, and our discussions will raise many questions about race, class, gender, disability, politics, religion, and other issues. You should expect to feel uncomfortable sometimes – that is part of the learning process. Your job as a student is to sit with that discomfort long enough to understand what it might mean. The classroom should be a space where you can express your thoughts as they develop; explore your responses to readings and assignments; be honest about what you do and don’t know; and take the time to understand the context of texts and ideas before passing judgment on them. We will have to work together to make the classroom a space where all voices, perspectives, and learning processes are respected, and where we can discuss sexist, homophobic, racist, and ableist language without using it against members of our community. Sometimes things won’t go as well as we might hope, and we’ll have to talk about how to make our classroom more hospitable to open discussion. I expect everyone in the class, including the professor, to be prepared to critically examine their own language and behavior. If you have concerns about the way class conversations are going, please come to office hours, email me, or speak to me after class.
A note on content
As part of our exploration of science fiction and social justice, we are going to read and view media that includes discussions and depictions of homophobia, sexism, racism, sexual assault, medical trauma, racism, and other kinds of violence. It’s possible that some of us will have responses to some of this material that will make it difficult to be fully present in class, and I will do my best to give advance notice when course material contains common psychological triggers, especially graphic depictions of physical violence, self harm and suicide, or sexual abuse. I cannot promise to be infallible in identifying such material; if you know that you require advance notice about particular content, please let me know privately so that I can take care to meet your access need.
You are always free to step out of the classroom with no questions asked, for any reason. If you think you might need to stay away from class due to the material being discussed, email me and we will discuss the best way for you to access and respond to material. Note that being triggered and being made uncomfortable by class material are very different things, and that content notes are not provided for adult themes and content more generally. If you are uncertain what to make of your reactions to anything we cover in the course, I encourage you to talk about it with a therapist at the Counseling Center.
Resources for further exploration
If the subject matter of this course excites your interest and you want to explore it further, I encourage you to look into elective courses in Women’s Studies, LGBT Studies, and/or American Studies. The LGBT Equity Center is located in 2218 Marie Mount Hall and may also be a useful resource.