Nov. 16, 2022Print | PDF
This fall, partners from across Laurier collaborated on an online program for students, staff and faculty. The new Writing with Inclusive Language module, available through MyLearningSpace, aims to raise awareness of the deep impact that language and word choice have in building acceptance and belonging in communities.
The module supports Laurier’s core values of equity, diversity and inclusion by offering concrete examples of what these concepts look like in daily life. Organizers hope the project starts a larger conversation.
“This is not a one and done for people to memorize. This is an invitation to start shaping the way we think about language,” says Christin Wright-Taylor, writing consultant with Writing Services and project facilitator. “Language is organic; it continues to change. The point is not to know the right answers but to start reflecting and start knowing the right questions to ask so you can keep asking those questions and keep reflecting as the conversation shifts and as the language changes with it.”
The module itself follows an expanded version of the Inclusive Language Guidelines [PDF], published by the American Psychological Association (APA), with sections focused on:
In the winter of 2022, Judy Eaton, associate professor of Psychology, was inspired by APA’s updated report and recognized the need for a similar guide to be created for the Laurier community.
Writing Services, along with eLearning, was quick to join this project and interest was sparked amongst partners across the university. Wright-Taylor stressed the importance of the community partners' involvement in providing a full range of perspectives.
Wright-Taylor; Zeeta Lazore-Cayuga, learning consultant with Indigenous Student Services and Transition Learning Services; Sarah Scanlon, manager of Sexual Violence Response; Eden Hennessey, equity, diversity and inclusion data specialist; and Jeanette Parsons, director of Accessible Learning, generously gave their time and individual expertise to create content specifically relevant to the Laurier community.
Each section includes graphics and interactive components to engage participants in the learning and, in some cases, encourage them to take the information and compare it to similar experiences in their own lives. Compassion, empathy and a desire to help people learn are at the root of the project’s design.
One example of the graphics included is a map, created by Lazore-Cayuga, of Indigenous communities surrounding Brantford, Waterloo and Milton campuses, allowing participants to contextualize the Indigenous peoples they are reading and writing about.
Intersectionality was a priority in the module. The collaborators recognized that most individuals do not simply fit within one box or category of identity. Indeed, identities are intersecting, complex and fluid. “In a perfect world, this module would be a mind map, not a linear track of disconnected sections, but one where identities were able to connect and overlap with one another,” says Wright-Taylor.
All collaborators on this project are committed to continuing to update and improve the content on an ongoing basis. There is a survey at the end of the module that allows participants to give comments and suggestions for improvements. The project collaborators will review all comments and meet every six months in order to update the module, bringing in new voices as needed.
Writing in academia and beyond requires care and attention to the language we use to present ourselves and others within the world. Being aware of people's identities, elevating marginalized voices and addressing inequities that have been overlooked are all important considerations.
“We live in a world where communication is driving so much of our knowledge-construction and collaboration; we are at a highly literate moment in history,” says Wright-Taylor. “People are doing more reading and writing than they have ever done before thanks to social media. I think this current generation really understands more than ever the importance of positioning: thinking strategically about how you're communicating about yourself, your identity and the world around you.”
Students, staff and faculty across Laurier are encouraged to enroll in the Writing with Inclusive Language module through the Self-Registration button on the MyLearningSpace homepage.
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