Posted by: awapter | December 1, 2010

Important Learning from the GLBTQ Student Panel on Power and Privilege by Suzanne Southerland

On November 12, the Teaching and Learning Center hosted a GLBTQ panel. Four Clark students discussed what instructors do and don’t do to help them feel welcome and safe in the classroom.

I’ve been concerned with GLBTQ student issues for nearly a decade and make an effort to do what I can to create a safe learning environment for these groups. So I was surprised that I learned so much that afternoon. But what surprised me more was that I was one of only a handful of faculty members who attended.

I wasn’t the only one who was surprised. One of the panelists said he had never felt marginalized at Clark until he witnessed the meager attendance at the panel. The irony was at best irritating given all of the heated discussion following the current controversy concerning the distribution of racist propaganda on campus. A lot of talk ensued but when it was time to listen to GLBTQ students, no one showed up.

So what did I learn? I learned that we as instructors have a lot more impact through our communication than I thought we did when it comes to creating a safe environment in the classroom. One of the panelists said that he felt safer in the classroom when instructors spent significant time discussing the classroom conduct and respect policies the first day of class. He said it was a red flag when instructors just glossed over this topic. Silence is powerful. As one of the panelists put it, when an instructor fails to deal with even the slightest derogation in class, the “silence is equated with shame for the student.”



  1. I’m not typing well these days, so I’ve created an audio file with my comments: WARNING! There is language that may be inappropriate for an academic setting. My apologies. I have a brain tumor, I don’t hold back, get over it!

    Here’s a link to the audio fileth my main comments:(you might hsve yto copy and paste the links — I don’t see a way to add a hot link on this text editor –hey wordpres, gety6 eith the program!_

    Here’s a link to the diversity plan FOR CRYIN G OUT LOUD READ IT, reflect on the implications for your teaching, AND ASSIGN IT IN YOUR COURSE!!!!

    EMPOWER YOUR STUDENTS TO CHALLENGE AND REPORT ALL INSTANCES OF MARGINALIZATION and microagression. (What’s a microagression?Click on the word and watch the video. How many mi croagressions hve you perpetrated today? Evetry time you engage in us/them thinking (with you in the “us group) you are perpetrating a micro aggression. Cuy iy out. Students are NEVER “Them”

    From my syllabus: (for what it’s worth.)
    My Teaching philosophy
    As a teacher, I believe my primary role is as a facilitator of learning rather than someone who imparts wisdom. I will work to provide an environment in which you can actively reflect upon your own ideas while you explore women’s studies scholarship. My teaching philosophy assumes that the learner (that’s you) is an active learner, one who is genuinely curious and willing to take responsibility for her own learning.
    Please know that I honor the knowledge you bring to the class and I respect your individual standpoint. I am going to challenge you, however, to explore not only what you think, but why you think you think it! I will endeavor to create an environment in which you as a learner can build and practice your reasoning skills, using the course material to ground your understanding of your own point of view and the points of view of others. Be prepared to feel a bit off-center at times. When you do, you’ll know you’re learning something new about yourself and the world around you!
    How you use what you learn is up to you. I will encourage you, however, to apply what you learn to your own life. Perhaps you will begin to glimpse the ways in which the distribution of power in society impacts you personally—politically, economically, socially, and culturally. Perhaps you will use what you learn to seek paths to personal and community empowerment. Perhaps you will begin to see how ethnocentrism plays a role in your personal views about the world, your communities’ response to people who are perceived as different, and your nation’s domestic and foreign policies.
    I believe that we are partners in this learning process. My motivation to be in the online classroom is not only to teach, but to learn as well. We are fellow travelers on a great journey—personal and social transformation through knowledge and understanding.
    Learner Responsibilities
    Take yourself and your learning seriously. You are engaged in a life-changing activity that will strengthen and empower you, your family, and your community. You deserve to be here. You deserve to be taken seriously.
    Student Code of Conduct
    As a member of the Clark College Community, you have certain rights and responsibilities. One of the most important involves academic honesty. I expect you to commit yourself to academic honesty and adhere to the Student Code of Conduct. Academic dishonesty includes 1) dishonest conduct during quizzes or any other evaluative measures, and 2) plagiarism (presenting someone else’s work as your own). Collaborating with your colleagues is a helpful way to learn. However, if you turn in work that is significantly similar to that of another student, I will consider the work plagiarized. Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. In most cases, the first discovery of plagiarism or dishonest conduct will result in failing the assignment (no make-up), the second with failing the course. Any student found to be dishonest in academic work will be immediately referred to the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs for disciplinary action. Please see the Clark College Student Code of Conduct (online at
    AVOID PLAGIARISM! It is your responsibility to know how to avoid plagiarizing the work of others. The Library offers a tutorial that can help you. Click here.
    Expectations for interaction
    Many of the issues we will discuss involve personal philosophies and political stances. In this class, there is no reward and no penalty for having a particular set of beliefs. What is important is your willingness to study, learn and understand the ways in which women’s lives are influenced by the distribution of power—a.k.a. politics—in societies. We will examine various points of view from different feminist perspectives. These standpoints may be very different from popular cultural beliefs. Remember, your job as a learner is to be able to articulate not only your own perspective, but the perspectives of others as well.
    Respect is essential for a positive learning environment. I expect that each of us will interact with one another with the highest degree of mutual respect. We must acknowledge that respect might look different to different people and it is only through our genuine curiosity about and willingness to understand one another that we can learn to interact meaningfully across difference. Though we are studying issues of grave importance, let us remember to laugh with one another, celebrate our successes, and enjoy the gift of each other’s company!
    I expect all learners will demonstrate respectful behavior toward colleagues, guest speakers, and me, regardless of opinions that might differ from their own. If you feel you are being treated disrespectfully, please discuss your concerns with me immediately. If you feel you cannot bring your concerns to me, you may contact my Division Chair, Van Forsythe, 360-992-2633.
    back to top
    Discussion Forums
    We are engaged in an academic endeavor, and I expect your discussion forum posts will reflect thoughtful composition and civility. Postings that are identified by me or your colleagues as uncivil, threatening, discourteous, ethnocentric, racist, sexist, disrespectful or rude will be removed and no credit will be given. Multiple incidents will be reported to the Office of Student Affairs. Please see the guidelines for discussions under the “Course Documents ” button in our Blackboard class.
    Please see “Politically Correct or Compassionately Aware?” in our second week’s material.

    Discussion Board etiquette:
    Rules of etiquette provide us with a foundation for respectful communication. Keep in mind, respect might look different to different people. These rules will help us maintain a respectful environment while we learn to communicate with one another across our differences.
    1. Please keep in mind that respect is essential for learning to take place. We show respect on the discussion board by:
    o beginning each of our posts with a greeting
    o using a person’s name if we are responding directly to her or his post
    o signing each of our posts with our names (first name only is fine)
    o taking time to carefully compose our contributions
    o checking our spelling and grammar
    o thinking about the impact our statements might have on our colleagues
    2. We also show respect by acknowledging the advantages and disadvantages of communicating solely by written word.
    3. Showing you have read and understood the course material and your colleagues’ posts is a form of respect. Our engagement on the Discussion Board is an academic pursuit. The way we communicate in chat rooms, email, or via text messaging might not be appropriate to communicating in the forums for this class. Review the assessment criteria below so you have a clear idea of my expectations of your discussion board work.
    4. We all have a lot to read 🙂 No single post should exceed 500 words. Stay focused on your point, incorporate the course material, and limit extraneous commentary.
    5. Please let me know if you find any of the postings uncivil, threatening, discourteous, or rude. Postings that are so identified will be removed from the board and the author will receive no credit for that week’s discussion. The second incident of an inappropriate post may result in academic disciplinary action.

  2. SEE for a video about microagression (the link in my post isn’t hot)

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