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Diversifying your course syllabus

A resource guide for instructors and faculty to assist in reviewing or building new course syllabi with a focus on inclusivity and diversity in both style and content.

Finding inclusive images

Images can reinforce teaching points for students and add interest to slides, particularly when teaching online. When images are not selected with diversity in mind, however, some students will feel that they are literally left out of the picture. Culturally responsive teaching should include the use of images that reflect the diverse representation of the students in your course. 

A quick Google image search for the term "University students" reveals that, though there does appear to have been an attempt to be inclusive in the representation of students, there are still many gaps (such as visible religious minorities, trans inclusion, size inclusion, age diversity, diverse abilities, etc.).

Google image search (August 2021). 

Google image search results page for the search "university students".

Other image searches, such as those for people in Computer Science students or Engineer, can return results that have gender biases, and some identities, such as visibly LGBTQ+, short-statured, and physically disabled students, are almost entirely absent. When selecting images for your presentations or class materials, keep diversity in mind, and try to ensure that your students can see themselves represented in the content. 

Sources for inclusive images

Digital Blackface

Coined by Joshua Lumpkin Green and popularized in a Teen Vogue article by Lauren Michele Jackson, digital blackface refers to the use of images and videos that create a caricature of Black people and culture. These appear in memes and gifs that are often used by white posters.  The digital phenomenon is related to blackface minstrelsy, theatrical performances in which white performers would blacken their faces and perform exaggerated, racist stereotypes of Black people. Gifs, Bitmojis. and memes of black people, often black women, reacting expressively and including what Jackson refers to as "butchered AAVE [African American Vernacular English]" have become common in texts and social media platforms, posted by white users to represent their own reactions.  This use of digital blackface often reinforces negative stereotypes about Black people and contributes to online anti-black racism. When including memes and GIFs in your presentation slides, think carefully about which ones you are selecting, ...

Content warning: This video contains historical footage of blackface minstrel shows which you may find offensive.