6 thoughts on “Reader query: climate in department lounge

  1. Many departments have weekly or twice-weekly teas at which graduate students and faculty hang out and chat. This can contribute to feelings of community.

  2. If some people want to create a nice environment, they might try to create one by acting it out, so to speak: stop by the lounge, ask whoever’s there friendly questions about their lives and their work, be an interested, engaged, and supportive listener: “that sounds interesting, have you thought about this . . .” etc.

  3. Are we supposed to think the dept is fine, but the climate of the lounge is not? So the problem is like that of motivating people to use it? Anon’s ideas for that seem great.

    If there’s some sense of an obstacle to collegiality in the lounge, I think there’s tons to be learned from the NSF Advance program. if you look at the fairly brief comments on p. 30 here: http://www.advance.rackham.umich.edu/PhD_Report.pdf
    You see the interesting idea that there needs to be leadership in maintaining a tone of respect and civility. Chair and grad director need to work together on climate. Etc.

    Or order in some pizzas and beer!

  4. I think we’re being asked whether there are any ground-rules one could constructively propose for a grad-lounge, and if so, which ones.

    I suggest this is an opportunity to mentor professional conduct, to say, “This is a space for students earning graduate degrees in philosophy, and those endeavors are best supported by climates of respect and equality.” I imagine that an overly specific code of conduct would have the perverse effect of discouraging interaction in such a leisurely place, but I can imagine DO’s even if it’s hard to imagine very effective “Don’t”s. It’s a golden opportunity to educate the young’uns on Jean Harvey’s concept of “support power,” and to tell graduate students, You have power! Support-power!

    Inquire after each other’s well being.
    Ask how processes work in the graduate program, and help each other work out the answers.
    Let others know what you find conducive to success in the graduate program.
    Support relaxation and a whole life in addition to philosophy! You’re in the lounge to relax? Great! So are your department-mates. Ensure their relaxation as well as your own. If you aren’t sure whether your banjo-playing or walnut-smashing are relaxing to others, consider asking them. Who knows, you might end up conversing!

  5. It might help to think a little bit about the details of the physical space. Is it decorated with photos of dead white male philosophers? Populated by books about or by the great white male philosophers? Both of these can trigger stereotype threat. (And, although the image of trying to have a conversation on equal footing when one is surrounded by larger-than-life portraits of white men may sound extreme, I can think of two top-10 Leiter programs in which this is actually — currently — the case, in the lounge/common room and/or the room typically used for departmental talks.)

  6. This is perhaps a more concrete suggestions than the poster was thinking of, but I’ll throw it out there. Last year my department purchased a custom-made set of over-sized magnetic words (like refrigerator poetry) that were related to philosophy/religious studies. (We share a building with RS, and we worked together with that department to come up with our own list of words). Then we painted a large wall in our lobby with so-called magnetic paint. It’s been a fabulous success! People stop by, create new poems/phrases, deconstruct others, etc. One of the things that’s nice about it is that we don’t get the kind of violent/sexist phrases that we might get if we just used blackboard paint and left out chalk. We get poems about hermeneutics, queer epistemology, and satyagraha! Of course occasionally someone does manage to cobble together an offensive phrase, but it’s easy to dismantle. Here’s the really good news: we had several extra sets made up (to be prepared for the inevitable disappearance of some of the words), and we aren’t using all of them. So if you’re interested in buying a set from us, it could make your very own magnetic wall of philo/religious studies words even more affordable than ours was! Email me if you’re interested: cahilla@elon.edu

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