Following our department’s Fall 2020 statement concerning the need for reflection, discussion, and action to better support our BIPOC students and colleagues, our faculty present the following as an initial report.
Discussions among department faculty over the course of the Fall 2020 semester centered around three main areas of possible improvement: student experience, curriculum, and alumni/ae relations. The following summarizes points of discussion in each area, and accompanying actions that the faculty have either began to implement or will begin to implement during the Spring 2021 semester:
Our faculty members recognize that we often do not have a clear or thorough understanding of our students’ perspective on their education, both in particular classes and throughout our programs, as well as at UA Little Rock as a whole. We are particularly interested in learning more about the challenges our students face to their educational success, and we recognize that those challenges can arise from factors directly related to courses, from extracurricular aspects of the university experience, and of course from life outside of the university.
- We have recommended that the CHASSE Dean’s Office organize small focus groups consisting of current students in the college, in order to provide spaces in which current students can share their experiences. This information can then be collected, anonymized, and shared with departments as part of continuous improvement.
Our faculty have begun conversations and reflections about both the structure and content of the Philosophy curriculum, with a view toward ways in which it can better represent and better speak to the experiences of our BIPOC students.
- We will review department syllabi for the past three years to determine the level of diversity of authorship among our assigned materials.
- We have already begun implementing changes in the Philosophy curriculum in order to ensure that students engage with a broader diversity of ideas, figures, and cultural backgrounds. Specifically, beginning with the Fall 2021 catalog: Eastern Thought (PHIL 3350) will be classified as a History of Philosophy course; Philosophy of Race (PHIL 4373) and Environmental Philosophy (PHIL 3375) will be classified as Moral and Political Philosophy courses; and Philosophy and Narrative (PHIL 3315), Existentialism (PHIL 3370), and Philosophy and the Arts (PHIL 3372) will be classified as Mind, Knowledge, and Culture courses.
- We will continue to review both the structure and content of our curriculum with the aim that it is welcoming to and speaks to the experiences and concerns of BIPOC students. Data gathered from our current students and alumni/ae will also be an important aspect of this review process going forward.
Our faculty realize that our department must improve our efforts to remain in touch with our programs’ alumni/ae. This is particularly important not only because our graduates represent our department and UA Little Rock in the workforce, in the communities in which they live, and in other educational institutions where they pursue postgraduate studies, but also because their retrospective insight into their own experiences as undergraduate and into the strengths and shortcomings of our programs can be of great benefit to our current students.
- We will establish a process for collecting feedback and contact information for our graduating students, in the form of an exit interview or survey form. We will build a database to collect and organize this information for use in assessment and to stay in touch with our alumni/ae.
- We will begin to contact alumni/ae whose contact information we currently have in order to solicit feedback regarding their experiences in our program, their experiences at UALR in general, and their post-graduate educational or career activities.
- We will ask current student organization leaders to reach out to alumni/ae in order to arrange conversations or interviews to share with other current students.
In addition, the department faculty members recognize the importance of reflecting on our own experiences and behaviors and identifying areas for improvement. The faculty commits itself to identifying and engaging in opportunities for professional development related to anti-racism work, in the upcoming year and beyond.