Landscape Architects Can Become Changemakers, But First We Need to Change How They Are Taught

Design as Protest charrette organized by landscape architecture students at the University of Washington, Seattle in 2017. / Jeffrey Hou

By Jeffrey Hou, ASLA

To address climate change, environmental degradation, and social inequalities, we need coordinated political action and systemic change on a global scale. With a mission to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the public, landscape architects can become important agents of that change.

Given our ability to work with social and ecological systems at multiple scales, landscape architects are uniquely positioned to bring about positive systemic change locally, regionally, and across temporal and territorial borders. But to become true changemakers, landscape architects also need to take a more proactive approach beyond the current business as usual. We need to work with a greater network of partners and allies. We need to approach design as a form of activism and a vehicle for change.

Study abroad programs provide opportunities for students to work with underserved communities. / Informal Urban Communities Initiative team (aka Traction)

For landscape architects to become changemakers, we must change how they are taught. In a new report titled Design As Activism, we propose a framework that design schools can adopt to create opportunities within their programs for both immediate and enduring change:

  • Politicize – Develop the ability and capacity in students to engage in the political process to create change; understand better the language and systems of power; accept the responsibility of professionals as engaged citizens and as members of a democracy.
  • Hybridize – Build knowledge and capacity beyond the traditional core of the profession; engage in collaboration on research, teaching, and service with other disciplines; learn from how other fields generate, disseminate, and apply knowledge, and how they engage the public and advance their agenda.
  • Glocalize – Think and act both locally and globally; build connections with stakeholders, including communities, public agencies, civic organizations, and the professional community locally and across borders; examine the intersections between local and global challenges.
  • Improvise – Make use of what already exists, including courses, curriculum, programs, and other resources; utilize strengths and assets already in place in a program or a community, including existing connections and relationships; be tactical and creative with opportunities and circumstances.
  • Problematize – Question assumptions and challenges facing an institution or a community; develop a deeper understanding of issues and take a critical stance; make issues of equity, justice, and resilience in a current program, curriculum, institution, or community the focus of education and actions.
  • Authenticize – Create opportunities for self-discoveries through experiential learning; develop and support long-lasting relationships for collaboration with community stakeholders; work with communities and stakeholders in the actual context with real issues.
  • Entrepreneurize — Provide students not only with technical skills but also entrepreneurial knowledge; develop partnerships with programs on campuses and organizations in the profession to offer courses and workshops; provide students with skills and opportunities to pursue alternative practices.
  • (Re)organize – Examine critically how education and professional practices in landscape architecture are organized; collaborate with the movement organizations and find critical intersections of our work; identify allies and build coalitions and greater capacity for the profession
  • Democratize – Begin by reexamining the power structure within our educational institutions; fully engage students, faculty, and the professional community in program decision and implementation; ensure that all voices are included in courses, projects, and initiatives; build capacity in the community we work with.

This framework and additional recommendations in the report drew from discussions at national conferences, an online survey, and interviews with practitioners and program leaders in the U.S. We explored the skills and knowledge required for design activists and the challenges and opportunities facing the integration of design activism into landscape architecture education. To learn from the existing efforts in the field, we further examined the current models of engaged learning that included community design centers, community-university partnerships, and service-learning programs.

Landscape architecture students worked with students and professionals from other disciplines to create social design solutions for issues ranging from racial inequality to voting right. / Jeffrey Hou

As educational programs in landscape architecture vary in their focus, size, and organization, and as they respond often to different contexts and constituents, the proposals here are not meant to be one-size-fits-all, nor are they exhaustive. Instead, we ask each program and school to assess its own mission and goals and develop appropriate strategies and actions together with students, faculty, and the professional community.

While the framework and suggested actions are specific to education, we firmly believe integrating this mission in the professional world of landscape architecture is also essential. A broader transformation can only occur through collaboration between education, practice, and social engagement.

Learn more about the project.

The report was the outcome of a Landscape Architecture Foundation Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership awarded to Jeffrey Hou, ASLA, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Washington, Seattle, with the support of a working group whose members include: Kofi Boone, FASLA, North Carolina State University; Mallika Bose Pennsylvania State University; Chingwen Cheng, ASLA, Arizona State University; David de la Peña, University of California, Davis; Joern Langhorst, University of Colorado, Denver; Laura Lawson, ASLA, Rutgers University; Michael Rios, University of California, Davis; Deni Ruggeri, Norwegian University of Life Sciences; and Julie Stevens, ASLA, Iowa State University.

23 thoughts on “Landscape Architects Can Become Changemakers, But First We Need to Change How They Are Taught

  1. Mark Johnson 04/19/2021 / 9:30 am

    Clearly leftist progressives are taking over our profession, just as they have been attacking the rest of our societal institutions.

    • amercanpatriot 04/19/2021 / 2:18 pm

      Sadly, ASLA seems happy to lead the way.

  2. Randal Romie 04/19/2021 / 10:23 am

    Okay this may sound out of date, but you can go to any college and get any degree and “utilize” these “ways for positive systemic changes.”

    My balancing statement is:

    1. Taking the political road is a dead end. When everything become political we have fallen to a theory headed toward progressive socialism/communism. That’s a big statement, but look at what is in the media on an instantaneous and daily fashion. Our heads are spinning trying to keep up with an ideology that belongs to global entities, I believe. If this is what you want, I only challenge you to look deeper.

    2. Learn Landscape Architecture! That is your calling and foundation. You can only get a taste of the enormity of design and how natural systems work in four years. Being a steward of the land is a full-time occupation and I believe doors will open for you as you learn your craft.

    3. People will listen to you as you gain experience and become strong in your understanding of nature, and then find ways to share your knowledge. If that means involving yourself in political issues than proceed from your foundation – one of understanding and bringing people and nature into a “mutually-enhancing relationship”(Thomas Berry)

    3. We want every one to become a steward of the earth in their own way and you can model this positive behavior.

    4. I have volunteered my LA expertise for years and it has allowed me recognition and to enact positive change in my community, and to teach in college.

    5. As an LA who has had their own business for 28 years, and has hired and worked with many interns and graduates, I look for someone who has their feet on the ground, is responsible and has respect for others, has a sense of who they are, knows how to work, is disciplined, and has an inherent desire to learn more about LA – one who knows that they don’t not know everything.

    6. There is another world out there that should come first in your lives: discovering who you are, self-worth, family, relationships, connection to your Creator and integrity. I put forth that all that I have included in this comment supersedes “Politize-ing” as the top item in this article.

    • Jeff Hou 04/20/2021 / 4:32 am

      Dear Randal,

      Many thanks for taking the time to write this thoughtful balancing statement (much better than just labeling others for no reason). This is the best that can happen in a public discussion. This is just a quick reply to continue the dialogue —

      1. It is expected that people may take what “politicize” means differently. In our work, it simply means participating in our democratic institutions to influence policy-making, allocation of budget, planning decisions, etc. It may involve advocacy, volunteering, partnership, working with elected officials, or perhaps running for office. In my state, we worked with our state relations office and state legislators some years ago to defeat a bill that would have removed licensure for landscape architects. Just a small example.

      2-3. Yes, learn landscape architecture. This is a call to examine HOW landscape architecture is taught, not necessarily WHAT is taught. LAAB is still there, and programs are accredited based on specific criteria.

      4. Great! You are a model for the rest of us.

      5. Yes, feet on the ground. Nothing in this document argues against this. In fact, we hope our next generation of professionals to become even more grounded. And the document is very much concerned with our ability to attract future generations of young people into our profession. Enrollment is a major concern at many schools. Without the determination to address the challenges facing society and the planet, we will not be able to attract the next generation of designers who are concerned about these issues.

      6. The list is not numbered. And there is no particular order in how things must happen and what actions are taken, at least in a generic or universal manner.

      I hope you will have a chance to take a look at the full document. I don’t expect everyone to agree with it completely, nor do I argue that it provides a perfect template.

  3. amercanpatriot 04/19/2021 / 1:53 pm

    “Design as Protest”: really? Design, in our profession, has always been a positive and constructive act – but what is described here is negative and destructive. The author is so desperate to be an influencer that he is willing to pervert and redefine LA in order to leave his mark. It’s disappointing to see ASLA giving space to something so abhorrent.

    • Jeff Hou 04/20/2021 / 7:34 am

      I appreciate your comment. You don’t have to agree with the message in this article. But which part of it comes across for you as being negative? (The Design as Protest event that appeared in one of the pictures was actually organized to produce positive change –https://www.dapcollective.com/)

      • amercanpatriot 04/20/2021 / 8:24 am

        Really? What part comes across as being negative? PROTEST: right there in the title. A “protest” is nothing but a childish, whining, complaining, disrupting tantrum. If you want positive attention, do positive things, with grace, dignity, and a cooperative rather than confrontational spirit.

    • Randal Romie 04/20/2021 / 2:55 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I agree, it’s not about protesting, or rabble rousing, or some other made up word with a new definition that’s framed to a political level, as in “protest.” What I want to say is let’s always take the high road and not be against something. Let’s be the forefront and and show the masses what to be FOR. Design for Leadership, for Integration, that which nourishes and lifts us up. I believe LAs have the inside track on how the natural world and the Heavens are connected. This message touches all and helps all.

      • Jeff Hou 04/20/2021 / 9:39 pm

        Not to undermine the importance of “protest” (it’s how the American Revolution started after all), the “Design as Protest” event seen in the picture was about taking the high road–channeling frustrations into positive actions for change. The event brought together over 200 students, faculty, and professionals across the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design and planning. There was a lot of positive energy in the hall to say the least. Anyway, it would be great to see responses to the actual content of the article or the full response.

    • Jeff Hou 04/20/2021 / 8:29 pm

      I mean the text in the article (if you had a chance to read it).

  4. SADIK C ARTUNC 04/19/2021 / 1:54 pm

    Landscape architects has long complained that the public does not know about our profession, or that we are called in after architects or engineers make all the decisions to “pretty things up or cover their mistakes.” There might be some truth in these common complaints. At the same time, we need to also ask why? I would suggest that perhaps we are often very humble, not willing to talk about ourselves, et.al. But part of these complaints are also related to our inabilities to participate in democratic process, participate in discussions, professional lobbying. I would humbly suggest that what the author (and co-authors) suggest is not running for political offices but be a part of the discussions, debates in written, spoken and drawing media. I would kindly suggest everyone to read the main report before making comments based on this brief article in the Dirt which is only the executive summary. I would also suggest that some of these ideas have been used both the people on the right as well as the left side of the political spectrums.

    Do I agree with all being suggested, probably not! But if we wish to positively change how we relate to our communities and the environment at all scales, if we wish to teach the future landscape architects how to solve the problems that only beginning to emerge, we must also begin to do a better job of teaching them both the heart of the profession and the emerging challenges. The climate change and social and racial challenges are only the tip of the iceberg. But we must begin what seems to be current at this time.

  5. david kendall 04/20/2021 / 6:23 am

    Agree. I went into LA for this reason, but never got around to it. Conventional practice seemed the only alternatives and I did them all: private, public and academic. Now retired I am an activist in a way…

  6. Simon Morrison 04/22/2021 / 2:03 am

    The title of the article sparked my interest, however the content was somewhat less fulfilling. Education is very different to the actual practice of professional design. So its easy and attractive for educators to explore tangential matters of current topical interest; like politics inequality and social ills. The danger of that route is that discussions can be more subjective, animated by feelings and opinions, however earnest or sincerely held, but less likely to help students grasp the fundamental knowledge and skills of design and professional practice within the (already broad) scope of Landscape Architecture.

    There really is a place for understanding the politics of our cities, regulators, businesses, communities, interest groups and the environment. Locally, nationally and even internationally too. However it strikes me, that these more subjective complex and delicate issues would be much better discussed, debated and approaches learned, by practitioners who have gained some actual experience. Who have held a real job, started a business, reviewed contractual documents, won/lost some projects, paid the bills and chased invoices, vetted the insurance policy, compromised with the engineers, engaged with clients and communities, argued with authorities and won/lost some design battles. And still have the commitment to the worthy aspirations of landscape architecture!

    How about learning to crawl before walking? before running? and certainly before learning the multiple delicate dances of the real world’s challenging marketplace for design in the built and natural environment. Rather than trying to fill finite young minds with lots of peripheral and subjective stuff, what about preparing young graduates with the ability to communicate? writing, spelling and drawing that others can read and understand. Articulating, explaining and convincing people who are NOT landscape architects (part of the club)? Gaining respect through engaging, workable yet inspiring design and seeing these implemented!

    • Jeff Hou 04/22/2021 / 6:25 am

      Dear Simon,

      Many thanks for your feedback. Yes, the foundational knowledge and skills of design and professional practice are still important to landscape architecture education. Nothing in this article or the linked document (have you read it?) suggests otherwise. I do wonder why you assume that practitioners and students who are socially and political active do not have or do not wish to acquire those knowledge and skills. We have many graduates who have successful professional careers and are also active in our communities. Several have received professional recognitions including local chapter awards and even elevated as Fellows of ASLA. Also, are political processes subjective? If we build a process that is inclusive to diverse opinions, is it subjective? How can we make collective decisions without consulting the users and those who hold opinions? Just to keep the conversation going.

  7. Jeff Hou 04/22/2021 / 2:44 am

    There seemed to be a bit of interest in (and, in my view, mischaracterization of) the term “protest” here, even though the term was not even in the text of this article. The word “protest” does appear twice in the linked document – once when describing conventional forms of activism along with advocacy, and another time in reference to the Design as Protest event, organized nationally by the Design Justice Platform — https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-25/designing-a-new-resistance.

    Just to set the record straight — protests can also bring about positive change. Think of the American Revolution and the Civil Rights marches in the 1960s. By mobilizing the public and articulating issues and solutions, protests can channel anger and frustrations into actions for positive change. Secondly, let’s not confuse protests with riots and other forms of destructive behaviors. Protests can come in many forms. Refusing to take on a project that may reinforce social inequalities can be a form of protest against injustice in society. In short, it’s a mistake to associate protest with only one kind of connotation.

    Protest, however, is not the main focus of this document (though it certainly catches attention). Looking forward to hearing more feedback on how we can prepare the next generation of changemakers in landscape architecture.

  8. Tricia K 04/24/2021 / 2:07 pm

    Thank you for the article. My comments are brief due to word count. My criticism is about the teaching methodology for LA. I have a BA in Psychology with an emphasis on learning theory. I discovered that Collaborative Learning is used in studios and from my experience, it’s not effective. I paid money to learn from professionals with credentials not other students. How can we be expected to learn from other students? This is blind leading the blind. After graduation, I took classes from other depts. to learn design and construction. I also take issue with the all-nighters. We do not learn without sleep. We are also at serious risk for car accidents without sleep. See Dr. Mathew Walker on TED Talks. We are a profession not a hobby. We are not going to move forward at all with this inadequate instruction. I’d be happy to write an article about this as well.

  9. Jeff Hou 04/25/2021 / 8:31 am

    Thanks for the comments, Tricia. Indeed, students are in the program to acquire professional knowledge and skills. I hope that most programs do deliver those. However, the complexity of social and environmental issues we face today often exceeds the current knowledge in the field. Also, many of the issues we face, such as dealing with environmental and social conflicts, require empathy and working with diverse opinions. It’s therefore important for students to have experience with collaboration and collaborative learning. In our program in Seattle, students work with not only peers from different disciplinary and cultural backgrounds but also students in other programs as well as community members and sometimes professionals. But collaboration is not the only focus of the program. The key is to find a balance.

  10. Jeff Hou 04/25/2021 / 8:32 am

    Also, in the context of this article, collaboration refers to a broad range of possibilities beyond just student collaboration in classrooms. We need to explore collaboration with other disciplines, community stakeholders, outside organizations and agencies, and with the profession, just to name a few.

    Agreeing with your point on student health and program culture!

    • Randal Romie 04/26/2021 / 9:30 am

      From the responses that you are receiving and your defense, it is obvious to me that the title of your article was inflated, “progressive” and political. This has required a response from those who still care, I feel, because those whom have responded don’t really trust the headline and the failures that it implies. I think the responses are about maintaining a level of education that students deserve, and an education that is not infiltrated with all the divisiveness and propaganda currently finding its way into curricula starting with grade school education. Include the fact that ASLA has already begun to profess politics and is getting swallowed up in the politics. While your intentions may be good, I really don’t want to read the article, you lost me with the title and the made-up words. Today there are too many words at this time that don’t have definitions or they have changed and others that have no meaning due to the media’s agenda. We all deserve better, maybe you want to re-write.

      • Jeff Hou 04/27/2021 / 8:59 am

        Randal, thanks for your comment on the title. Your point is well taken. We see many headlines and titles that are trying to get attention in a media space that is saturated with information. I guess it was the editor’s job to do so. In any case, given your response here, I wonder what you mean by divisiveness and propaganda that are finding its way into program curricula. Any specific examples? What politics is ASLA being swallowed into?

  11. Phil O 05/04/2021 / 5:49 pm

    OMG, calm down everyone!
    Design is by it’s nature a challenge to implement and to experience. It should rattle cages and if necessary, confront the status quo. LA is a temporal art/science and many results are not fulfilled for hundreds of years.
    Maintaining integrity is paramount and if that gets people thinking and discussing the outcomes then the first part of the process has been achieved.
    If LA students are taught to think outside the box in a multifunctional way it can only be a good thing.
    Remember that creation is the birthchild of provocation.

    • Randal Romie 05/05/2021 / 8:57 am

      Asking people to calm down and then promoting “rattling cages” and provocation contrary in definition. (?) I think you are ignoring or missing the point. I agree with integrity and ask you to point out the integrity in current political discussion. That’s the point I/we have been trying to make, take the political leaning out of the education and teach integrity and the high road that LA is.

  12. SADIK C ARTUNC 05/05/2021 / 10:23 am

    All, if you think these discussions are taking place only in landscape architectural profession or education, think again! I would like to share the following brief article for the events taking place around the nation in education! A three minutes reading with interesting points….
    Sadik C. Artunc, FASLA

    Tomorrow’s Professor #1868
    Can You Hear Me Now? The Challenges and Promise of Viewpoint Diversity

    Folks:
    The posting below gives some good suggestions on to how help groups of students discuss a variety of viewpoints different from their own. It is by Richard J. Prystowsky* and it appeared in Liberal Education, Winter 2021 Vol. 107, No. 1, a publication of the Association of American Colleges and Universities [ http://www.aacu.org/liberaleducation/ ]. Copyright © 2021 Association of American Colleges and Universities, 1818 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20009. All rights reserved, reprinted with permission.

    Regards,

    Rick Reis
    reis@stanford.edu
    UP NEXT: Spotlight on Teaching and Learning: Mid-Semester Check-In – Parts 1 and 2

    Tomorrow’s Academy
    ———- 1,388 words ———-
    Can You Hear Me Now? The Challenges and Promise of Viewpoint Diversity

    Decades ago, on the first day of a freshman composition class with readings centered on the theme of war, I asked my students to respond to the following writing prompt: “Define an enemy.” I was troubled to find that more than half of the students defined an enemy as “someone who doesn’t agree with you” (or closely related wording). Having expected to read about enemy soldiers or longtime personal conflicts, I realized that I needed to start the next class session by discussing with my students the value of exploring different viewpoints and the dangers of seeing viewpoint disagreements as personal attacks.

    Sadly, in our polarized society, this critical-thinking problem continues to plague us. Rather than embracing viewpoint diversity by exploring views that deeply challenge our own, many of us often close ourselves off to different views and those who hold them. In extreme cases on college campuses, students try to silence speakers whose views they find offensive. These actions do not bring us closer to understanding and relating well to one another. In fact, they escalate rather than resolve conflicts and divide rather than unite us.

    Faculty can and should create safe classroom spaces for the good-faith free exchange of ideas. During such exchanges, students are genuinely open to examining their own views critically and to hearing, reading, analyzing, writing about, discussing, and trying to understand others’ different—even personally challenging—views. As many faculty can testify, creating these active learning spaces helps students grow both intellectually and socially.

    Accusations that colleges and universities stifle viewpoint diversity continue to mount. Many among the public distrust higher education. Some of our higher education colleagues claim to have lost their jobs because of their views. Scholar Steven F. Hayward, for example, wrote in the July/August 2020 issue of Commentary magazine that he “voluntarily withdrew” from his invited appointment to teach at the University of California–Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy after students directed an onslaught of pressure at the dean who had hired him. Other colleagues argue that colleges and universities prepare students to be ideological purists who, after graduation, apply their learning to the detriment of society. For example, Professor John M. Ellis lamented in the Wall Street Journal in July 2020 that “universities used to be places where the major political and social issues of the day could be researched and debated” and warned that now the “campus offers not a reasoned corrective to partisan passions, but fierce, one-sided advocacy of dangerous and destructive ideas.” Lawmakers are taking notice and could respond by cutting funding for higher education.

    How should we respond to such threats to the credibility (and perhaps funding) of higher education? More specifically, how can we ensure that we create allies among a diverse group of citizens who could work together to achieve a just society? If we ourselves do not embrace viewpoint diversity, and if we fail to expose students regularly to viewpoint diversity practices, we risk losing the opportunity to help students develop resilience and practice forming alliances with people whose views differ from theirs. Without this training, college graduates are ill-equipped to become civically engaged members of their communities. Working for the common good requires such alliances. Embracing viewpoint diversity is a necessary, foundational condition for achieving this end. In fact, if we persevere in this work, we might even discover that, as the following extreme example demonstrates, sometimes, unlikely allies are not so much out of reach as they are unknowingly in the making.

    For years, Derek Black, the son and godson, respectively, of longtime white supremacist leaders Don Black and David Duke, was being groomed as a leader in the white nationalist movement. On his father’s Stormfront radio talk show, Derek Black articulated his vision of a white nationalist America. Charismatic and intelligent, he became a spokesperson for the movement. But then something happened.

    As detailed in Eli Saslow’s Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist, Black enrolled in New College of Florida, a small liberal arts college, where he secretly continued to do his radio broadcasts. But he also met and interacted with several students from groups whose members were targets of white supremacist racism. After his identity was discovered, rather than abandon him, these students ramped up their conversations with him. Patiently and respectfully, they listened to his views, countered them with their own ideas and lived experiences, and shared persuasive scholarly work with him.

    To his credit, Black was open to learning about views that challenged his most deeply held convictions. In time, he began to see that his assumptions and evidence were faulty and that his radio talks profoundly harmed the kinds of people with whom he had now become friends. Now doubting his previous ideas and feeling remorse for his actions, Black abandoned his former views and, at great personal risk, left the white supremacist movement. He now speaks to audiences about the dangers of white nationalism.

    Although a number of factors contributed to Black’s transformation, this change likely would not have occurred had his schoolmates not engaged him in ongoing, difficult, yet civil conversations. As educators confronting the challenges of grappling with viewpoint diversity, we might take a page out of these students’ book.

    Derek Black and his schoolmates could have easily seen themselves as enemies and refused to communicate. Fortunately, they did not take that path. Thus, this case study provokes a serious question for us higher education professionals: If the heir apparent to a key faction of the white nationalist movement and the students who are targets of that movement’s racism could have such challenging and sometimes disturbing conversations, might not the rest of us, including our students, also benefit from having them?

    To be sure, we need to tread carefully, since many of us have been the targets of hateful ideas and actions. But colleges and universities can encourage risk-taking in thinking and serve as safe havens for examining different viewpoints
    .
    If we are genuinely committed to being open to others’ perspectives and the concomitant goal of securing communities’ well-being, then we need a diverse group of allies working to bridge the gaps of our often-dangerous divides. Ultimately, whatever cost we might incur to our feelings of comfort when we fully embrace viewpoint diversity, surely, as Derek Black’s story demonstrates, the cost of censoring viewpoints and silencing dialogue is far greater.

    How to Guide Groups in Embracing Viewpoint Diversity

    → When possible, have participants sit in a circle in order to create a community-like setting.
    → Agree to jettison hierarchies in the room. Also agree that no one will be retaliated against for expressing a view that others do not like. One by one, everyone should commit to these agreements verbally.
    → Establish decorum rules that everyone agrees to follow (for example, no name-calling or personal attacks).
    → Ensure that everyone who wants to speak will have an opportunity to do so. (Perhaps use a “talking stick.”)
    → Especially for difficult discussions, establish common ground that unites the group (such as, “Do we all agree that we want to be engaged citizens working for the benefit of our communities?”).
    → Ask participants to avoid using overly general words or phrases such as “liberals,” “conservatives,” “the left,” or “the right.” Often, such terms are divisive and do not advance understanding or help to create alliances.
    → Remind participants to listen and speak to others as they would want others to listen and speak to them.
    → Agree to listen to others in order to understand them rather than to be ready to reply to them.
    → Before participants respond to a perspective that they find problematic, they should first summarize the perspective in a way that the person holding it would deem accurate. If they summarize it incorrectly, they should ask for clarification.
    → Commit to supporting each other, especially when people disagree. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable when hearing good-faith views that challenge one’s own assumptions.
    → Participants should not necessarily assume bad faith on the part of those whose views they find challenging.
    → At the end of each session, restate the group’s unifying common ground.
    → Inject grace. Allow for mistakes.
    → Remember: Ultimately, it’s about maintaining good relationships, establishing alliances, and strengthening the group’s health, not about adopting the same perspectives.
    ________________________________________
    *Now retired, Richard J. Prystowsky is a former professor of English and humanities and a former college senior vice president and provost. In addition to writing or giving talks on a range of topics from college writing to Holocaust studies, he has been active in promoting equity-based changes in higher education.

    “Desktop faculty development 100 times per year.”
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