Accessibility and Discussion

The below policies are the ones that I have developed for in-person discussion. For our online class, they apply to all of our synchronous and asynchronous spaces. Please also read about the class’s Fall 2020 COVID-19 adaptations, which supersede prior policies.

University policies
UMD’s general policies can be found at this link. The text below describes the principles I aim to follow in the practice of classroom world building.

I aspire to the principles of universal design, which state that maximizing accessibility for participants with disabilities improves learning environments for everyone. I try to minimize barriers posed by course structures and materials, and I will do my best to work with any student who requires specific accommodations for a disability even if it is not formally documented. Please let me know about any access needs as soon as you can, even if you aren’t sure how accommodations will work in the context of this class; I will work with you to figure out the best way of doing things. I promise to keep any details you share with me in confidence.

A note on discussion
Racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and other abusive language is never acceptable in class discussion, in person or online. Yet we cannot discuss the history, practice, and necessity of feminist knowledge production without encountering such language. Nor can we assume that we will share the same definitions, expectations, and attitudes toward it. We should try together to make sure that generosity and openness characterize the ways we engage with one another’s contributions in the classroom and online––even as we pay close attention to the flows of power and privilege among and through our bodies. This should not mean ignoring offensive or hurtful words and actions, or hesitating to call out problems when you see them. It should, though, mean working from an assumption of collaboration rather than confrontation and appreciating both that discomfort is a necessary part of learning and that we are all in a state of constant change: what we say does not define who we are. If you are concerned that forms of unproductive discomfort or problematic power dynamics are emerging in our classroom, please speak to me as soon as you can; I will do all that I can to implement a change.

A note on reading
The texts we will read in this class will challenge you in various ways, as they should. Some texts will make you angry, whether because of their content or their style; some texts will mystify you; some texts will make you fall in love. Those affective and political responses are important and should not be set aside. Nevertheless, our aim as scholars in this class should be to engage in a spirit of openness, giving each author the gift of a complex engagement that goes deeper than either agreement or disagreement. Attend to your initial response, but set it aside if you need to in order to read both critically and generously.  How is this project shaped by its origins, location, and investments? What can you learn from it? If something seems to you to be missing, how would the project become different if it were included?

A note on content
Many of our readings, as well as images and media shown in class by the professor or student presenters, discuss and depict individual and collective violence and trauma. The issue of how to approach such content––to represent and discuss violence and oppression without perpetuating and reproducing them within the classroom space––is a topic of discussion within feminist pedagogical circles, often shorthanded as the issue of “trigger warnings,” though I prefer to think in terms of content notes (read more about my approach). I am still thinking through the role of a content note policy at the graduate level and hope to discuss this further with all of you. I have provided basic content notes for the fiction we will be reading, though these should not be considered comprehensive; I will be happy to privately discuss any content-related access needs you may have. When you put together material for class presentations, I encourage you to think about what your own content policy will be and to share it with the class before you present.

Attendance and participation
As graduate students, your studies are your job. I assume that you to want to be here, that you are prepared to spend time working through texts that can be difficult, and that you will be continually thinking about what might be possible in your own intellectual projects. I expect to see everyone in every class. If you are failing to attend or to turn your work in on time and you haven’t checked in to let me know why, I am likely to assume that you do not care about or respect the class, me, or your fellow students––so if you are having problems that are affecting your attendance and participation, or if you have to miss class for any reason, please let me know as soon as you can. I do know that we all have lives outside of the classroom and I have no interest in penalizing you for being a person with a body and personal commitments. If you are absent for any reason, though, I expect you to do the reading, to catch up with the shared notes document, and to discuss what you miss with one or more of your classmates.

Basic needs and resources
It is not easy to focus on learning when you are struggling to make ends meet or to stay safe. If you are facing difficulties, please don’t hesitate to let me know so that I can help with resources and/or accommodations. Some of the resources below may be useful:

Campus Pantry: Alleviates food insecurity and provides a safe space to distribute emergency food to current UMD students. The Campus Pantry is located in the Health Center, Heilsa Room 0143 (Ground Floor), and is open each Friday during the semester from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Individual appointments are also available. Contact 301.314.8054 or More information is available at

Student Crisis Fund: For students who have an unexpected critical situation and need immediate financial support. Students will be asked for basic information to describe their circumstances of the emergency need and what other sources of funds are available. For more information, visit

Counseling & Mental Health Services:
Counseling Center: Shoemaker Building, 301.314.7651,
Mental Health Service (University Health Center): Campus Drive, 301.314.8106,
University Chaplains: University Chapel, 301.314.9866,

CARE to Stop Violence
Campus Advocates Respond and Educate (CARE) to Stop Violence provides free, confidential advocacy and therapy services to primary and secondary survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, and sexual harassment, while simultaneously empowering the campus community to prevent violence through educational presentations, events, and outreach activities. Contact (301) 314-2222,, or in an emergency, the 24-hour crisis cell line at (301) 741-3442. For more information see

Mandated reporting
As a UMD faculty member, I am a mandated reporter for Title IX, as described in the university policy quotation below.

Faculty, academic advisors, instructors and teaching assistants employed at UMD are required to notify the Title IX Officer when they become aware of any type of sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship abuse, domestic or dating violence and stalking, including such conduct occurring via email, texting, and other electronic means. The reporting obligation applies no matter where the conduct occurred, and applies to disclosures in written assignments.

In practice, what this means is that if you make a disclosure of this kind, I will speak with you privately to determine whether a report should be made. A report to the Title IX office means that someone from that office will follow up with you and explain your options; it does not require you to take any further action. Confidential resources such as CARE (contact details above) offer help and support without mandated reporting.