In February 2019, the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign voted unanimously to approve a set of policies intended to create a community of care and inclusion among its faculty, staff, and graduate students. Over the past academic year, our new standing Committee on Department Climate has brought together faculty and student representatives to discuss ways in which we might further our twin goals of diversity and inclusivity. Both faculty and graduate students have attended annual events designed to improve our working and teaching environment and to reaffirm our commitment to equity and inclusion. Meanwhile, an ad hoc committee began developing a survey to better gauge student and faculty concerns about the climate within our department (to be fielded in Spring 2021) and helped advise the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on construction of a college-wide survey.


Since the killing of George Floyd, and with gross inequities in the effects of the COVID pandemic, our department is considering what additional steps we can take to minimize bias and promote equity. We recognize that it is our responsibility to address and correct the ways in which our collective practices generate or amplify distinctions based on race or color, sex or sexual orientation, national origin or citizenship status, religion, disability, or other protected categories.

Toward that end, we take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to being a community of care and to make the following policy proposals. In developing this list of action-items, we are informed by efforts to diversify departments at other universities, which recommend the following: first, establishing collective support for the importance of diversity to our department; second, following through by committing department time and resources; and, third, creating an organizational culture that is consistently attuned to inter-group dynamics and encourages the visibility and participation of a diverse set of actors.

Specifically, our proposals address three different policy areas -- undergraduate and graduate teaching, graduate recruitment, faculty recruitment and retention -- and make both short-term and longer-term commitments. This list of proposals should be made available to members of our community on our website, and we should take care to update this agenda as we make progress on each individual action-item. The faculty will meet to discuss this document, our progress on these policy proposals, and any new goals, at least once annually.

Improvements to Undergraduate and Graduate Teaching

  • The department has taken proactive steps to improve the departmental climate and is committed to further progress. Already, we have been developing an annual departmental climate survey to be fielded each spring starting in 2021, and, since 2019, we have convened a new standing committee on departmental climate with representation from graduate students (the Political Science Graduate Student Association) and undergraduates (Pi Sigma Alpha and the Association of Minorities in Political Science). In addition, since 2019, we have held annual diversity and inclusion workshops for graduate students and faculty, and our graduate students have annually elected two faculty representatives to serve as ombudspersons. Starting in 2021, the department’s Climate Committee will organize an additional annual event aimed at promoting inclusion among undergraduate students.
  • Improved Data from Teaching Evaluations: Currently, our department requires faculty to include nine questions in any ICES teaching evaluation, covering topics about content clarity, instructor preparedness, and sensitivity. Additional items -- specifically about inclusivity -- are not currently available, but the department has reached out to ask that CITL develop these, so that they can be added to our required set.
  • Beginning in Spring 2021, the department website will host a list of resources for educators to consult when thinking about creating an inclusive atmosphere in the classroom. Some existing resources -- e.g., here , here , here , and here -- may prove useful when developing this list.
  • Beginning in Spring 2021, the department will also encourage faculty to revisit existing course syllabi before each semester to identify areas of improvement with regards to representativeness along a number of different dimensions e.g., race, gender, ethnicity, nationality. Useful guidelines for improving inclusivity in course syllabi are available here.
  • The department will also encourage faculty to highlight discussions of equity and inclusion in their course syllabi (e.g., by including a dedicated section under the learning goals or course description) starting in Spring 2021; to incorporate new material about these themes in existing courses in the short term; and to develop new courses that address these topics in the longer term, as resources allow. These new courses will increase department offerings that meet general education requirements in U.S. Minority and Non-Western Cultures.
  • By the end of the Spring 2021, descriptions of existing concentrations will be revised to highlight how they address themes of equity and inclusion. In the longer term, as the number of relevant course offerings increases, the department will explore student interest in developing a new undergraduate concentration focused on equity, inclusion, and mobilization.
  • The Department provides scholarship support to first-generation students through the Bob Byars Scholarship Fund and will make it a priority to establish a scholarship fund to support students from under-represented groups (similar to the system-wide President’s Award Program). These should be annual, competitive awards that go to political science students in good academic standing.
  • Starting in AY 2021-2022, the department will establish an annual award for student research -- undergraduate or graduate -- on issues of diversity and inclusion. The standing Awards Committee would issue a call for nominations, consider the pool of nominees, and announce the award recipient(s). Depending on the number of nominations, the award could be given annually or bi-annually.
  • The department is actively exploring ways of recruiting a more diverse undergraduate student population through a series of programs and events. We have already reached out to the College of LAS, asking to be involved in the university’s annual Salute to Academic Achievement.


Improvements to Graduate Recruitment

  • Consider Permanently Removing GRE from Graduate Admissions: Standardized exams are known to exacerbate structural inequities, and the COVID pandemic has created further challenges for under-served students. In response, the faculty have voted to suspend the GRE requirement for the next graduate application cycle (2021-22) and will evaluate, early in AY 2021-22, whether to remove the requirement beyond the 2020-21 cycle.
  • Starting in AY 2021-2022, we will require a diversity statement from all prospective graduate students as a part of the application process. This will give applicants the opportunity to highlight valuable experiences that will enrich the department, but which may not be apparent in other application materials (e.g., curriculum vitae, transcript). This document will also help the admissions committee put student achievements in their proper context in order to evaluate them fairly and consistently.
  • In addition to requiring a diversity statement, in keeping with the university’s admission policies which view student diversity as a compelling interest, we will continue to make diversity a criterion for graduate admissions to be weighed alongside other criteria. Our graduate program is often close to achieving gender parity and already represents students of many ethnic and national backgrounds. We also actively nominate all eligible candidates for additional funding opportunities at the campus level. By making diversity a criterion in admissions, we can ensure that the department continues to capture the gains of having diverse cohorts of incoming students, while helping to further diversify our broader academic community.
  • We will continue to develop systems for identifying and recruiting more diverse applicants. By proactively seeking out diverse applicants to our program, we can increase the likelihood of achieving the kind of diverse and inclusive community that we strive to be. In Fall 2020, as in the past, the department participated in the American Political Science Association's Minority Student Recruitment Program virtual event and in the University of Illinois' ASPIRE recruitment program. In addition, we reached out to students across the country participating in the McNair Scholars program and made contact with department heads at over 20 colleges and universities in the Midwest with the goal of diversifying our applicant pool. We informed potential applicants about the Big Ten Academic Alliance application fee waiver program in hopes of lowering barriers to application. In the future, we intend to collaborate with others in political science through efforts like the Ralph Bunche Institute to begin organizing recruitment events for college juniors at annual conferences (e.g., the Midwest Political Science Association meeting in Chicago, the American Political Science Association annual meeting); to develop an on-campus event to reach out to potential applicants; and independently build relationships with HBCUs and other institutions that serve marginalized groups. These latter efforts, in particular, are intended to overcome obstacles related to information and mentoring that often keep under-represented groups from pursuing a Ph.D. in the social sciences.


Improvements to Faculty Recruitment and Retention

  • We will continue our practice of advertising faculty searches on a diverse set of platforms, including Women Also Know Stuff, People of Color Also Know Stuff, FirstGenScholars, Women’s Caucus for Political Science, the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, and the APSA Latino Caucus, among others.
  • Starting in AY 2021-2022, we will require a diversity statement from potential faculty hires, as piloted in our most research faculty search (2019-20), and in keeping with emerging norms at UIUC and in the discipline. This statement provides prospective hires the opportunity to highlight valuable experiences that may not be apparent in their other application materials, but which would enrich the department community through their research, teaching, and mentorship.
  • In parallel with changes to the university’s promotion criteria, and starting with all new faculty hires, we will require a diversity statement for promotion to be used in our internal deliberations. Diversity statements provide candidates a space to highlight how their activities have promoted diversity, equity, and inclusion in campus life and to discuss how their identities and experiences inform their research, teaching, service, and mentoring.
  • The department’s external speaker series will continue to invite faculty speakers from under-represented groups, as well as scholars from a variety of academic and non-academic institutions, and will begin inviting senior graduate students from under-represented groups to present their work. The goal is to increase the range of perspectives, methods, and topics that are presented and discussed in our department.
  • The department has sought to and will continue to seek to attract a DRIVE postdoctoral fellow to the department. The Illinois Distinguished Postdoctoral and Visiting Scholars Program is a campus-wide effort to attract top-quality scholars from under-represented groups to campus. We would benefit greatly from using this opportunity to promote diversity and inclusion in our department. Further, the department will appeal to the university to make the DRIVE program permanent and expand upon it, to help UIUC compete with similar efforts at other universities.
  • The department has presented a proposal to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in Fall 2020, advocating for a cluster hire in areas of research that focus on diversity and inclusion, around the themes of rights, power, and conflict. In addition to three new faculty members, hired over two waves, the cluster could also include joint-appointments with units that have strengths in these areas, e.g., African American Studies, American Indian Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies. A cluster hire approach would allow the department to rapidly build on its existing expertise in these areas and to create a rich research environment with opportunities for collaboration. As has been documented, there are great advantages to clustered hires when it comes to collaboration, output, impact, and retention.
  • In the longer term, we hope to develop a new interdisciplinary program in identity and inclusion, housed within the department. The department would provide support for an annual speaker series or conference, organized by program leadership, that would support collaboration among program members and extend their reach to other units and within the broader community. Should other units also hire in the areas of rights, power, or conflict, we would encourage them to affiliate with our new program and we would happily extend a similar invitation to current faculty working on these issues.


Resources for Equity and Inclusion in Teaching

A 2019 Pew study links the surge in the number of undergraduate students over the past two decades to increased enrollments by students of color and those from low-income families. The share of undergraduates from families at or below the poverty line went from 12 percent in 1996 to 20 percent in 2016, while the share of non-White undergraduates rose from 29 to 47 percent over the same period. As educators, we seek to welcome students from a variety of backgrounds, including those who are the first in their families to attend college, those who come from historically marginalized communities, and those of different religions and nationalities, of different abilities, or with different gender or sexual identities.

This document is intended to provide resources to assist in the design and implementation of courses in the Department of Political Science that are maximally respectful of diversity and that seek to promote equity and inclusion, wherever possible. We intend it to be a living document and welcome suggestions for edits and additions. We also understand that changing an entire course can take a lot of time and energy. If you find this list of suggestions overwhelming, consider making just one change to improve your course each time you teach it.

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Access additional Community of Care Resources here.