Our Shared Agreements
In this class, we will be discussing sensitive topics and controversial ideas about which many of us have deeply held, deeply felt beliefs and experiences. It is not a requirement of this class that you agree with everything (or anything) that you read. It is, however, a requirement of this class that you take seriously and treat with respect the views, experiences, and arguments articulated by the authors we read and by your colleagues during class discussion; that you think critically about those views, experiences, and arguments before accepting or rejecting them; and that you provide substantive explanations for why you believe what you believe. As a class, we will work together in building a classroom community that both respects and supports our various needs, including those connected to larger structures of homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and racism, and encourages all of us to think carefully and rigorously with what will be, in different ways, difficult material.
In order to do this, we will revisit and revise the following shared agreements for class, elaborated with previous students in GSS 101:
- GSS, like all disciplines, is premised on foundational assumptions upon which there is scholarly consensus. Even if we don’t agree with them, we must at least temporarily accept them in order to move forward with our learning in the field. By doing this, we may eventually be persuaded of them and, if not, become better equipped to challenge them. Foundational assumptions of GSS include:
- Culture shapes our identities. What is valued or typical or taboo in our culture may be very different from what is valued or typical or taboo in other cultures.
- In each society, certain identity positions are privileged, and others are marginalized. Having privilege does not make one a bad person, but it should come with an added responsibility to be aware of the ways in which it has made one’s life easier while making the lives of those who lack it harder.
- Gender is a social construction. No one is born feminine or masculine.
Additional Shared Agreements:
- Listen and read carefully. Ask questions about texts and about classmates’ ideas to make sure you fully understand them before moving to challenge them.
- Be open to rethinking your opinions and questioning why you hold those opinions.
- Use your words, body language, and tone to communicate respect rather than hostility for others’ viewpoints, even as you express disagreement.
- Avoid interrupting and dominating conversation.
- Be sensitive to the fact that many of the topics we discuss in this class touch on classmates’ identities and lived experiences. Do nοt make assumptions about others based on perceived identity.
- Do not use personal, racist, sexist, classist, ableist, homophobic, or transphobic insults and do not laugh at or shame individual classmates or groups of people.
- Assume that your peers have good intentions and give them the benefit of the doubt. We all make mistakes, especially when we’re learning new things.
- Ask yourself why a new opinion or idea makes you uncomfortable. If it’s because it challenges your preconceived assumptions about the world, that’s okay; sit with the discomfort for a while before deciding to accept or reject the new idea. If, however, it’s because your safety is threatened and/or your identity and/or lived experience are being invalidated, see #9.
- Let your peers know when a comment has offended/hurt you. Talk to them about it either in class, after class, or by email so that they can do better going forward. If you don’t feel safe doing this, talk to your instructor.
- Be empathic and respectful of people’s lived experiences when they share personal stories that connect with the material. Make sure personal information/stories shared during the class do not leave that space.
- Do not be afraid to ask questions! (Ask your instructor about submitting questions anonymously if that makes you more comfortable)
- For students with accommodations that allow recording class: Do not share any recordings you make (for accommodations reasons) outside of the class. Avoid recording other students’ comments if possible. Delete all recordings after you have used them.
- Do not record class discussions if you do not have related accommodations.
- Cultivate open mindedness and appreciation for differences.
- Understand that everyone’s views are different and valid. Be willing to step outside of the comfort zone of your own beliefs and truly step into another person’s shoes to see the topic at hand from a different lens.
- Be open to accepting feedback as necessary.
- Be willing to ask classmates and/or the professor what an appropriate way to say or phrase something is.
- Assume positive intent as a listener, but also be aware of intent vs. impact as a speaker. if someone says something harmful, call out the statement. even if it wasn’t meant to be harmful acknowledge the impact if that is the case.
- Do not invalidate each other’s experiences/opinions/identities.
- Be kind.