Fostering Inclusive Classroom Engagement
Dear Oglethorpe Community,
The college campus is a place where people from diverse backgrounds come together to grow in knowledge and experience, preparing them for the broader world awaiting them. Classrooms, whether physical environments or remote learning spaces, are most fundamentally places where ideas should be freely and safely exchanged. Part of our mission is to “emphasize intellectual curiosity” through close collaboration among faculty and students. The sharing of different perspectives, experiences, and opinions is the foundation of a liberal arts education and a hallmark of the Oglethorpe experience.
The privilege of academic freedom is most aptly used to foster engagement, facilitate critical dialogue, and provoke thoughtful perspective-taking. However, great care must be taken to uphold the freedoms that promote meaningful discussion while also actively fostering an inclusive environment where students feel comfortable to engage in that dialogue. It is the responsibility of educators to consider both the intent and the impact of words, and recognize the dynamics of power and privilege at play in our classrooms and offices. Regardless of intention, words that denigrate, marginalize, or alienate entire communities – or reduce complex issues to broad stereotypes – are not reflective of our shared community values or conducive to effective teaching and learning. Perpetuating stereotypes undermines shared trust and suppresses conversation and dissenting voices. We must always strive to do better as a community and I know we can.
Our collective goal as an institution is to create environments where students can safely express their views, can be challenged to think more complexly, and can synthesize views from multiple perspectives. We recognize that we still have work to do in this area. To that end, I will be reaching out to faculty and the Student Government Association to work together on thoughtful solutions that ensure classrooms are spaces of shared knowledge and power, and honor the diverse world in which we live.
Lastly, I urge any student who feels that we are not honoring the standards outlined above to share your concerns at oglethorpe.edu/student-complaint-process. Reporting through this mechanism allows for a formal process to unfold and for direct action to be taken.
Thank you all for what you bring to the Oglethorpe community.
Nicholas Ladany, Ph.D.
President, Oglethorpe University