Motivated by ongoing inclusion initiatives and discussion at the ground level in my place of work in the museum field, as well as in my field of Classics, and in the digital humanities and digital scholarship, I decided to reflect on the ways in which I try to build and advocate for diversity and inclusion. All three areas are having deep and often uncomfortable conversations about how to best work collectively towards inclusion and equity. From my perspective, here are some personal small steps:
- Ask my students their pronouns. It’s an optional question that I include on a first-day survey for my classes, along with reflections on why they are taking the course, what their interests are, and what other time commitments they have. This simple action (along with the survey itself) says that my classroom is a safe space for all of my students.
- I also threw the laptop ban out the window. Why did I ever have this policy? Perhaps because it was a decade ago and I didn’t know better. But laptop bans are ableist, and truthfully, if your students are distracted, you’re not fully engaging them. Work with them to incorporate digital technologies into the classroom and use their laptops as a tool for learning.
In my post-PhD research:
- I’ve been working on exploring the data from a survey I conducted concerning the costs of attending the AIA/SCS meetings this past January. I deliberately kept the survey form's fields open to allow for nuance of data collecting and provided ample option for comments, of which I received many. This project works towards creating more awareness of the financial obstacles that many graduate students, contingent faculty, and precariously employed academics face on the job market and in our professional field.
- My subfield (and day job) - provenance research - has vast resources devoted to the study of ownership of works of art from the so-called “Western” canon - sculptures and paintings created primarily by white men. As I co-develop a course on provenance research for emerging museum professionals, we are trying to interweave knowledge and processes for conducting provenance research from diverse fields and voices - indigenous populations, Asian and aboriginal art, and the like - in the hopes of building new research into the histories of all forms of works of art.
“Soft skills” efforts that don’t fit into a neat box:
- I recently changed my email signature to include my pronouns (she, her, hers), and if nothing else, I hope this raises awareness about how harmful it can be to assume things about a person.
- I yell (sometimes loudly) about precarity, contingent positions, labor, social mobility, and poverty - causes that I believe must be addressed in the fight for inclusion.
- I advocate extensively for open access, universal healthcare, affordable education, and meaningful and sustainable work environments - causes that I believe will even the playing field and promote equity.
- I’ve written several times to my local bus service, urging them to reinstate the line that went past the museum I work at but was discontinued some time ago. Now there’s even less access for staff and visitors to the Getty, especially from Santa Monica, which is just absurd.
- I read. A lot. Beyond my discipline(s), and within my discipline(s). There are amazing initiatives in Classics that call for more diversity, and in museums, and in the digital humanities. Far more than I can list here, I’ve taken to saving many of them in Zotero for future reference, and am happy to share.
- I show up. Really, sometimes that’s all you can do when lacking institutional power. I'm taking the notes for our diversity group and helping work toward official, recognized status at my place of work. Even though I'm in a contract position, I feel it is important to advocate for staff and visitor inclusion at our institution.
There's nothing particularly magnanimous in any of these actions, and I have so much to learn and do. Being involved in an active diversity group at my place of work has taught me to listen, to take action where I can, and to not wait around, hoping for change. We have a lot of work to do - and this list is not meant to self-congratulate myself at all, but to reflect a little in the hopes of continuing to grow and make the world even just a little bit more equitable. I was moved by this infographic that Sara Goldrick-Rab posted on twitter the other day, illustrating the differences between equality, equity, and the full removal of barriers to which we must ultimately strive: