The Philosophy Department has formulated Best Practices for faculty and student conduct that we believe will promote the highest levels of professionalism in our department. Many of these are suited to practices, norms, and expectations in our profession; others are specific to the culture and history of our department. The department is strongly committed to the highest professional and ethical standards, and is taking steps to improve the culture of the department and its climate. We are determined to make this a safe, inclusive, and welcoming place for all men and women, including members of underrepresented groups, to work, teach and study.
We begin by emphasizing that we adhere to, and strongly endorse, the University policies concerning
In addition, we adhere to, and strongly endorse, the Professional Rights and Duties of Faculty Members and Roles and Professional Responsibilities of Department Chairs, endorsed by the Boulder Faculty Assembly and the Provost. Here is a document that outlines the professional duties and expectations of faculty members, duties that complement the rights of faculty members and make those rights possible.
Motivation and Goals: We think it is extremely important to make sure that our community is welcoming to and supportive of women and underrepresented minorities. We ultimately hope to play a positive role in making the discipline of philosophy inclusive and welcoming to all who wish to pursue it, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, age, etc. We note that this is in line with the Flagship 2030 commitment to "develop, implement and assess university strategies to improve the diversity of faculty, students and staff as well as to foster a supportive, more inclusive community for all" (pg. 42), to "…ensure that all students, faculty, and staff feel included and welcome; and [to determine] what steps we can take to enhance the overall CU-Boulder campus climate".
Motivation and Goal: All members of the department, both faculty and students, wish to work in an environment where their work is taken seriously by others, where their work is given proper respect, and where discourse is civil, respectful and professional.
Not only is this something that all faculty and students want to see in our department, it is also written into the BFA Professional Rights and Duties of Faculty Members:
"Collegiality, expected of each faculty member, includes civility, mutual respect, common courtesies, personal accountability, and willing contributions to the effective functioning of the academic unit. Among other essential professional obligations and expectations are that the faculty member respects and defends the free inquiry of associates; shows due respect for the opinions of others in the exchange of criticism and ideas; acknowledges academic debt and strives to be objective in professional judgment of colleagues and staff members; does not discriminate against or harass colleagues or staff members; respects the privacy of colleagues and staff members…."
Motivation and Goals: Our goal is to cultivate an environment in which all interactions between members of the department—whether personal or professional, whether face to face or by electronic media—are conducted with the utmost civility and professionalism. Email communication is now a necessity for every organization and group, but it has serious limitations that can breed misunderstanding and conflict. Furthermore, we believe that nothing can substitute for positive face-to-face interactions among colleagues and students.
Motivation and Goals: We recognize the special benefits of using social media. It can provide an important means for getting to know people outside the classroom, building relationships and networks, and sharing ideas. But it can also lead to messages meant only for close friends, or written in haste, being shared with a much broader audience, including the rest of the department, field, and community. Such comments can easily be taken out of context, causing hurt and damage to reputations. So, we encourage students and faculty who enjoy the benefits of social media to also be aware of these risks and work to maintain good relations within the department and between the department and the broader community.
In particular, students and faculty should be aware of the following pitfalls of using social media indiscriminately in academic settings. First, faculty who 'friend' students run the risk of sending the message that pursuing close personal relationships with them is required for a graduate student's long-term success in the program and in the profession. That can be highly problematic for female graduate students in a department where the faculty members are predominantly male. Second, this behavior may pressure graduate students into sharing personal information that the students wouldn't normally be comfortable sharing with faculty members. Third, they run the risk of drawing in-group/out-group lines that are corrosive to the morale of students, and allowing for an appearance of favoritism. All of these problems can be avoided by a careful and thoughtful use of the media.
Motivation and Goals: Department social events are important to the way we do philosophy, which is often done in conversation and discussion, inside and outside of the classroom. However, it is of the utmost importance to maintain professional standards of behavior in our social interactions, especially when such social interactions are taking place between faculty and students. We also believe in the need to run our social events in a way that is fully hospitable to all departmental members. We ultimately hope that all departmental members will feel completely comfortable attending our social events, and that no member will ever be alienated from an event for fear of harassment or incivility, or will feel forced to attend an event against his or her better judgment.
Motivations and Goals: We have a large and thriving undergraduate major and minor program, and wish to make the department a welcoming place for them. We can overcome the relative impersonality of a huge university like CU by providing students with constructive undergraduate experiences and opportunities to interact with faculty. We do this by hosting events that allow faculty and students to talk about philosophy and continue conversations outside of the classroom, as well as working to include the students in the research community on campus.
The department strongly encourages faculty involvement with students for their direct educational benefit. This includes independent studies, UROP projects, senior honors theses, McNair Program theses, and similar academic opportunities. When conducted in accord with the general principles below, these activities are central to the learning opportunities offered by a research university. Similarly, undergraduate presence is encouraged at all conferences, colloquia, talks, and other academic events. Best practices include faculty regularly announcing in their classes that these opportunities exist, and encouraging students to take advantage of them.
Best Practices for Events involving Undergraduates:
Motivations and Goals: Alcohol has historically had a strong presence in professional philosophy, and in many ways still does. But having alcohol at department functions (involving faculty and graduate students who are of age) carries risks. First, the presence of alcohol at departmental functions can have an alienating effect on those who don't wish to drink or those who wish to avoid colleagues and mentors who are under the influence because of concerns over unwanted sexual attention or harassment. Second, such individuals may feel forced, nonetheless, to attend such events because of the importance of such events to educational and professional development. Third, alcohol loosens inhibitions, and thus may play a role in creating conditions in which unprofessional behavior, unwanted sexual attention, or outright sexual harassment is more likely to happen. We take such risks seriously. We hope for an environment where faculty-student relations are professional, but at the same time warm and friendly. We hope that no student will ever feel excluded from an event due to the presence of alcohol or feel forced to attend an event against his or her better judgment. We wish to foster strong professional relationships by providing everyone with a safe and secure environment.
The department should schedule regular alcohol-free social events, such as afternoon tea, post-colloquium receptions, and an end of the year party.
Motivations and Goals: Holding office hours is a necessary and expected part of the faculty member's or instructor's responsibilities and duties toward his or her students. In general, the office hours need to be accessible to all students, at times convenient to most students. This means that the office hours need to be on campus, and during business hours. Office hours also need to be 'safe spaces' for students to interact with their teachers.
Motivation and Goals: Amorous relations between teachers and students creates potential conflicts of interest, harms students, and corrodes the trust students have that an academic program is fair and professional.
As stated earlier, the department adheres to, and strongly endorses, the campus Amorous Relationships policy. However, we also endorse the following stricter recommendation:
Best practices are not simply the responsibility of each of us individually. All members of the department must be willing to hold their colleagues accountable in public (student-to-student, professor-to-professor, etc.) for failing to pursue best practices, and to support in public those who are on the receiving end of bad behaviors. Likewise, all members of the department should recognize, encourage and reward those colleagues who are models of best practice behaviors. Best practices are the product of a culture and community of practice, sustained by the good will and forceful ethical judgment of all. They are not equivalent to conflict avoidance, empty civility, or "harmony" sustained by mere silence and tolerance of misbehavior. Best practices may require members of a community to confront each other, in ways that can be unpleasant for both the person confronted and also the person(s) doing the confrontation. They require community support for those who confront when this is called for, and most generally they require courageous communities deeply committed to the educational mission of the University.