Practicing inclusion as a virtual community

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This message was shared by the Office of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion on Friday, March 20.

Campus community members can view updates at the Coronavirus Information and Coronavirus FAQs webpages, which are being updated regularly as this situation evolves.

Dear Members of the Campus Community:

The coronavirus has changed our campus community. We know that moving to remote learning is new to both faculty and students, and staff are adjusting to virtual meetings. We also know that the sudden loss of connection to our physical campus is a loss that is deeply felt by many. We worry about our students, colleagues, our families and neighbors. This worry can give way to anxiety, hypervigilance, inability to focus and difficulty sleeping. Trying to keep updated via the news and social media can be stressful.

But fear and anxiety also give way to generalizations and assumptions about people. We know that in the current situation this is especially the case for individuals who identify as (or appear to be) Chinese or from other Asian countries. Historically, pandemic illnesses or outbreaks originating in non-western countries or associated with under-developed countries have fostered biased perspectives about people assumed to be from those regions (or people who physically resemble them). Classifying groups of people as dangerous or sick, or making assumptions about a person’s nationality based on their physical features, reinforces xenophobia and racism, whether intentional or not.

These times call for a stronger sense of community and more intentional and visible efforts of inclusion. It also calls for us to recognize where bias plays out and to support those who may experience it. Digital platforms can often lead to a sense of anonymity or permission to engage in conduct or use of language that one might not even consider if the interaction were in person. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help support our values of respect and inclusion in our new on-line environment.

  • Communicate expectation about respect and inclusion in the on-line environment. Professionalism, mutual respect, and inclusive mindset are important practices for maintaining engagement and supporting success at work and in learning.
  • Recognize that xenophobia and racism are known to negatively affect physical and mental health and can lead some to withdraw from community connection. Check-in with your students and colleagues, offer encouragement and a safe place to bring or submit concerns.
  • Seek assistance if and when concerns emerge in your digital classrooms or meetings.  You don’t have to know the answer in the moment, but you can get support and resources to help respond to and support those who are impacted.  If you have  questions or concerns about bias in your digital classrooms or meetings or if a student or employee reports bias or discrimination from their participation in the on-line environment, contact me at
  • Educate yourself and maintain perspective.
    • So many have exchanged strategies and resources to draw from as we move to remote delivery of instruction and virtual work environments.  Your colleagues are very willing to support you — lean on the help and expertise of our community!  I offer this site as one of many resources on inclusive pedagogy
    • Look to official information from organizations such as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to reduce the circulation of misinformation.  This is now a global pandemic and no one nation or nationality is responsible or to blame for this health crisis.
  • Recognize that everyone has a different level of access to support or medical care.  Even before this crisis, many already had difficulty with access to medical care and other resources. As this crisis continues, not everyone will be in a position to access medical care and other resources. Be mindful of assumptions or judgement.
  • Act with care and empathy. Rather than treating someone with suspicion or fear, ask them how they are feeling and whether they might need assistance getting support. Also, recognize that as this continues, people are balancing many things, including potentially knowing someone impacted by this illness, and that many may have emotional reactions to talking about the health crisis. Give them room. Let them know you care and will be there when they are ready to talk more.

I have seen tremendous acts of kindness within our community and I have seen the ways in which, even in the rush and change of this situation, our community continues to hold inclusion and connection as key to excellence in teaching and service. Take care of yourselves and each other.

Tanhena Pacheco Dunn
Associate Vice President for Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion
and Chief Diversity Officer