Resources for Departments

Making Your Department More Inclusive

Here is a compilation of ideas to implement in your department to make the environment more inclusive. The list is inspired by activities and actions some departments are already taking.

  1. Ensure that resources and information for misconduct reporting are available, easily accessible, and confidential. Given fears about possible professional retaliation among others, students may not know to whom they can safely report instances of harassment or exclusion. Consider setting up a way to gather complaints and comments from students anonymously, which are then discussed in faculty meetings.

  2. Conduct graduate student climate surveys, share the results, and discuss them in faculty meetings. Knowing the numbers will shed light on how widespread discrimination and inequality are in your department, and whether certain actions or policies are contributing to the problem. Linked below are some examples of climate surveys with standardized batteries of questions, and feel free to adapt our climate survey to your needs.

  3. Strengthen efforts to recruit and retain students from underrepresented backgrounds. Participate in and support programs such as:

    • The Institute for Recruitment of Teachers which helps students with applications and offers fee waivers.
    • The Ralph Bunche Summer Institute which is an annual, intensive five-week program held at Duke University, designed to introduce to the world of doctoral study in political science those undergraduate students from under-represented racial and ethnic groups.
    • The Minority Student Recruitment Program which identifies undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds who show potential for or are interested in doctoral study, and shares this recruitment information with APSA member graduate departments that enroll in the program.

    For more programs, please see the APSA Diversity page.

  4. Organize events like these regularly:

    • A mandatory orientation meeting for incoming students that clearly sets expectations for codes of conduct (e.g. speaking in seminars) and norms (e.g. behavior in shared office spaces). Consider providing a space for feedback and inviting advanced graduate students to discuss the departmental culture and answer questions.
    • Meetings, for which all are encouraged to attend, to discuss issues experienced by women and other minority groups. Set an agenda beforehand to make it more productive.
    • Dinners or other gatherings between female/POC students and faculty. This is a great way to build and strengthen mentorship and support networks for students from underrepresented backgrounds.
    • Events in which families/kids are welcome and make this explicit.
  5. Do not appoint professors (especially junior faculty) and students from underrepresented groups to all the diversity, inclusion, and mentorship activities/committees of your department. Most of them are highly motivated to do it, but their own work and research suffer from these extra efforts. Make sure to involve the whole department and redirect the efforts from “how to deal with discrimination and aggressions from your peers” to “how to behave in a way that you do not discriminate and enlarge inequalities.”

  6. Be cautious and aware when you talk about affirmative action with your students. Do not attribute their successes to affirmative action. It is great to hear “You’re going to do great on the market!” but it is unhelpful to hear “You’re going to do great on the market because there’s a high demand for minorities!” Comments like these only exacerbate imposter syndrome, in which individuals doubt their abilities and accomplishments.

  7. When having faculty meetings about diversity issues, department climate, or more sensitive and specific issues like harassment, consider inviting a third party individual from outside of the department (possibly from Title IX office or the Dean of Diversity office) to serve as a more objective discussion facilitator.

Other Climate Surveys

Other Resources