Avoiding stereotypes helps foster an inclusive student community. Stereotypes are fixed, overgeneralized beliefs about a group of people. They can make individuals feel unwelcome and unfairly judged. By avoiding stereotypes in both verbal and written communication faculty can help all students feel welcome and seen as individuals. Faculty should also discourage students from using stereotypes in their communication, including in their assignments and during class discussions.

Some suggestions

Choose your examples wisely. Examples can inadvertently reinforce stereotypes so try using ones that are not stereotypically associated with one group, e.g., cell phones, the color green.

Set expectations for professional behavior. This includes, but is not limited to, the expectation that students will not use derogatory or potentially insensitive language with each other, and that they will refrain from using it in their assignments, e.g., “The picture should not include hateful, offensive, or otherwise inappropriate images.”.

Attend to the physical and digital environments. Labs, classrooms, and social spaces can reinforce stereotypes about who the “typical” computer science student is. So can webpages. Check out your program’s physical spaces and websites to see what messages they may be sending.

Even “positive” stereotypes can hurt. Be careful making even seemingly positive comments that rely on stereotypes (e.g., “women are so good with. . .”). They can create division and trigger stereotype threat.

Examples from the collection

Resources