A Guide for Engaging Students in Campus Events

The Provost’s Office and the Office of the Vice President for Diversity created a guide to offer ideas to assist and encourage classroom discussion pertaining to the CSUnite: No Place 4 H8 event. However, the guide also offers recommendations to faculty for promoting proactive conversations around the many campus events, speakers and free speech topics that occur throughout the year. The guide is designed to help faculty facilitate learning opportunities while mitigating harm and promoting dialogue.

Ideas for Conducting Productive Dialogue Around Challenging Topics in the Classroom

The Provost’s Office and the Office of the Vice President for Diversity have compiled the following pedagogical resources that faculty might consult in order to be prepared to engage their students around First Amendment topics as they emerge and evolve on campus.

Be proactive – assume a discussion will come up regarding controversial topics. If we are proactive we can plan ahead and practice how we may address it when it does arise.

Utilize the Principles of Community – Inclusion, Integrity, Respect, Service, and Social Justice, cannot be accomplished without a firm investment in our First Amendment rights and a commitment to “freedom of expression, critical discourse, and the advancement of knowledge.” Introducing the Principles of Community in classroom discussion can help set the tone and clearly articulate the Principles to which we subscribe as an Institution.

Create Ground Rules – The creation of ground rules or community expectations in a classroom or meeting are particularly effective in creating a shared space. Invite students in the classroom to contribute suggestions they believe lead to constructive dialogue. By providing community expectations or ground rules for classroom sessions, we have the opportunity to set clear expectations for dialogue. If the dialogue goes in a direction that is counter to the agreed upon ground rules – the faculty, or fellow students, can direct the dialogue back to the ground rules.

Discuss First Amendment rights – Discuss with your class what the First Amendment protects and what it does not protect. For more information on the First Amendment attend one of the First Amendment Conversation Series Sessions.

Recognize the Potential for Harm – Faculty play a critical role in establishing a classroom that is respectful and open to differing opinions, and in establishing an awareness that words can lead to harm and cause pain to people for a wide variety of reasons. Throughout history, and in a variety of contexts, dominant groups have utilized their First Amendment rights to silence and further marginalize minoritized groups. Those dynamics unfold in classroom spaces as well as in the larger culture. Although students may utilize their First Amendment rights in the classroom setting, faculty must take the proactive role in organizing thoughtful engagement based around shared understanding of the ground rules and goals of dialogue.

The Office of the Vice President for Diversity offers coaching and support to faculty and staff on campus to encourage best practices for dialogue when working across difference.

Online Resources

There are many practices to consider when negotiating difficult conversations in the classroom. The resources listed below can be of help.