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IRWGS Statement of Principles for Teaching and Learning in the Time of a Pandemic

The Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality builds on a statement of principles originally published by the Department of English and Comparative Literature.

As the University’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency evolves, all of us look forward to returning to the in-person teaching that forms the foundation of our shared intellectual life, when it is safe to do so. During this extraordinary time of crisis, we come together as a community—of scholars, teachers, archivists, students, and administrators—to affirm the following principles, which shall guide our response and our actions going forward:

First and foremost, we commit to preserving the health, safety, and well being of all members of our community.

Striving for Equity
We especially recognize the challenges faced by our students—particularly those already in difficult circumstances shaped by the inequities of wealth, race, ability, accessibility, environment, citizenship, or residency status. Therefore, we are committed to adapting our teaching approaches using every tool at our disposal to meet the varied circumstances and the needs of our students, as well as the ongoing developments in public health. This aims to provide the best teaching and learning environment possible in order to uphold the scholarly mission at the Institute.

While technological innovation in the classroom is important, we are reluctant to burden our instructors and students with new, cumbersome, and costly tools. Instead, we propose to innovate the methods that are the core of our classrooms, being guided by best practices and by technology already in use widely among instructors and students. In doing so, we draw upon the rich resources and research in digital pedagogy.

Individual and Communal Choices
We trust in the wisdom and experience of our faculty and staff at the Institute, in conversation with each other and with our students, to make personal choices about how best to preserve the safety, health, and equity of their classes while maintaining teaching and learning excellence.

In making decisions we rely also on the long-standing traditions and established mechanisms of faculty self -governance at Columbia, within the Institute, and across the Arts and Sciences. Our decisions as a University grow stronger when we respond with many diverse voices, after careful consideration and discussion, and with respect to the existing advisory structures.

Finally, tenured members of our community affirm the need to protect our more vulnerable colleagues from undue pressure contrary to the above principles: lecturers, staff, untenured faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral research fellows, and adjunct faculty. We stand with them in support and with all others struggling to cope with this crisis.

Today, more than ever, our (real and virtual) doors are open for your questions, concerns, and comments. Please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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The Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality is the locus of interdisciplinary feminist and queer scholarship and teaching at Columbia University.

Columbia University
Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality

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