Writing an inclusive syllabus
Your syllabus can be a powerful tool in creating an inclusive learning environment. It conveys your priorities as an instructor and sets the tone and your expectations for the course.
University Libraries has put together a great resource: Diversify Your Syllabus: Resources and Readings for Your Syllabus. This guide includes library resources to find research from underrepresented groups and locations plus other examples of diverse syllabi from disciplines with sample readings.
Per University policy, instructors are required to develop a course syllabus for each offering of a course and communicate the syllabus to students. In addition to the specific course details, it's important to share policies and other information that might have an impact on a student's participation and comfort level in the course.
- For the full list of required course information, view the University policy on syllabus requirements.
- The University's Recommended Policy Statements for Syllabi should also be referenced. Any duplication of this information should be removed from the course syllabus in order to streamline the common information for students and allow them to focus on the details specific to the course.
- Sample language for policies and information related to inclusiveness, diversity, equity, and advocacy are listed below.
Accessibility and accommodations
The Disability Resource Center recommends that all University instructors use the following statement on their course syllabi to inform students of the instructor’s willingness to provide reasonable accommodations:
The University of Minnesota views disability as an important aspect of diversity and is committed to providing equitable access to learning opportunities for all students. The Disability Resource Center (DRC) is the campus office that collaborates with students who have disabilities to provide and/or arrange reasonable accommodations.
- If you have, or think you have, a disability in any area such as, mental health, attention, learning, chronic health, sensory, or physical, please contact the DRC office (firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-626-1333) to arrange a confidential discussion regarding equitable access and reasonable accommodations.
- Students with short-term disabilities, such as a broken arm, can often work with instructors to minimize classroom barriers. In situations where additional assistance is needed, students should contact the DRC as noted above.
- If you are registered with the DRC and have a disability accommodation letter dated for this semester or this year, please contact your instructor early in the semester to review how the accommodations will be applied in the course.
- If you are registered with the DRC and have questions or concerns about your accommodations please contact your (access consultant/disability specialist).
Equity, diversity, equal opportunity, and affirmative action
The University provides equal access to and opportunity in its programs and facilities, without to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, membership or activity in a local commission created for the purpose of dealing with discrimination, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. For more information, please consult Board of Regents Equity, Diversity, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action Policy.
Academic freedom and responsibility
The following are the approved University of Minnesota policy statements on academic freedom and responsibility:
For courses that do not involve students in research:
Academic freedom is a cornerstone of the University. Within the scope and content of the course as defined by the instructor, it includes the freedom to discuss relevant matters in the classroom. Along with this freedom comes responsibility. Students are encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment and to engage in a sustained and independent search for truth. Students are free to take reasoned exception to the views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, but they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled.
Reports of concerns about academic freedom are taken seriously, and there are individuals and offices available for help. Contact the instructor, the Department Chair, your advisor, the associate dean of the college, or the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs in the Office of the Provost.
For courses that involve students in research:
Academic freedom is a cornerstone of the University. Within the scope and content of the course as defined by the instructor, it includes the freedom to discuss relevant matters in the classroom and conduct relevant research. Along with this freedom comes responsibility. Students are encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment and to engage in a sustained and independent search for truth. Students are free to take reasoned exception to the views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, but they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled. When conducting research, pertinent institutional approvals must be obtained and the research must be consistent with University policies.
Reports of concerns about academic freedom are taken seriously, and there are individuals and offices available for help. Contact the instructor, the Department Chair, your adviser, the associate dean of the college, or the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs in the Office of the Provost.
Example 1: Persons who have religious or cultural observances that coincide with this class should let the instructor know in writing (email is fine) by [date]. I strongly encourage you to honor your cultural and religious holidays! However, if I do not hear from you by [date], I will assume that you plan to attend all class meetings.
Example 2: In addition to scheduling exams, I have attempted to avoid conflicts with major religious holidays. If, however, I have inadvertently scheduled an exam or major deadline that creates a conflict with your religious observances, please let me know as soon as possible so that we can make other arrangements.
Diversity statement/statement of respect
Example 1: Students in this class are encouraged to speak up and participate during class meetings. Because the class will represent a diversity of individual beliefs, backgrounds, and experiences, every member of this class must show respect for every other member of this class.
Example 2: It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, that students’ learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Please let me know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups. In addition, if any of our class meetings conflict with your religious events, please let me know so that we can make arrangements for you.”
Example 3: The readings, class lecture, and my comments in class will suggest a particular point of view. This perspective is my own and does not have to be yours! I encourage you to disagree with the ideas in the readings and lectures as well as the perspectives of your colleagues in the course. Please express yourself!! A significant part of a college education is learning about the complexity of various issues; therefore, it is important that we listen and respect one another but we do not have to agree. A richer discussion will occur when a variety of perspectives are presented in class for discussion.
Example 4: In order to learn, we must be open to the views of people different from ourselves. In this time we share together over the semester, please honor the uniqueness of your fellow classmates and appreciate the opportunity we have to learn from one another. Please respect each others’ opinions and refrain from personal attacks or demeaning comments of any kind. Finally, remember to keep confidential all issues of a personal or professional nature that are discussed in class.
Example 5: A positive learning environment relies upon creating an atmosphere where diverse perspectives can be expressed. Each student is encouraged to take an active part in class discussions and activities. Honest and respectful dialogue is expected. Disagreement and challenging of ideas in a supportive and sensitive manner is encouraged. Hostility and disrespectful behavior is not acceptable. Just as we expect others to listen attentively to our own views, we must reciprocate and listen to others when they speak, especially when we disagree with them.
Name and pronoun usage
This statement is an example shared by the University's Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life:
Class rosters are provided to the instructor with students’ legal names, unless a “preferred” name has been entered into a student’s MyU account. Students pronouns will be listed on class rosters if this information has been added via MyU. I will honor the names and pronouns student provide, and your request at any point to address you by your correct name, gender pronoun, or any other manner you would like to be referred. Please advise me of how you would like to be referred to in class. I will also expect class members to honor the names and pronouns peers provide.
First generation student ally statement
I am part of the campus community network focused on meeting your unique needs as a first generation student as you navigate your learning and life experiences here at the University of Minnesota. I can help you connect with resources on campus to address challenges you may face that interfere with your academic and social success on campus and beyond. My goal is to help you be successful and to find the support and guidance you may need to become a first generation graduate.
In June 2006, the Provost’s Committee on Student Mental Health developed and endorsed the use of the following syllabus statement to inform students of campus resources:
As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety. alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance or reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. University of Minnesota services are available to assist you with addressing these and other concerns you may be experiencing. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential mental health services available on campus at www.mentalhealth.umn.edu.
Land acknowledgement statement
We acknowledge that the University of Minnesota Twin Cities is built within the traditional homelands of the Dakota people. It is important to acknowledge the peoples on whose land we live, learn, and work as we seek to improve and strengthen our relations with our tribal nations. We also acknowledge that words are not enough. We must ensure that our institution provides support, resources, and programs that increase access to all aspects of higher education for our American Indian students, staff, faculty, and community members."
- Accessible syllabus: Rhetoric
- Accessible syllabus: Policy
- Creating an inclusive syllabus (Grinnell College)
- Family friendly syllabi examples (Oregon State University)
- Before and after: Statements about course content (Saint Louis University)
- How can I use my syllabus as a tool for inclusion? (Tufts University)
- Calendar of holidays and religious observances