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We Are What We Read: We Are What We Read: The Problem of Representation on Undergraduate Philosophy Syllabi

Year: 2023

Presenter Name: Mykie Valenzuela

Academic Philosophy suffers from what has been called a "demographic problem." In 2018, only 1% of full-time philosophy professors in the US were black and women professors totaled just 17%. Progress in recruiting underrepresented groups has lagged far behind other humanities disciplines, particularly in race and gender. I hypothesize, given that undergraduate syllabi contain texts predominantly written by white and male philosophers that students from underrepresented groups are less likely to major in philosophy. I am testing this theory using several years of syllabi records from the University of Utah Department of Philosophy. Using the Simpson's Diversity Index, based on authors of assigned readings, each syllabus is given a score that illustrates how representative it is of the different identities of philosophers and authors. For example, if a syllabus only includes authors with the same identity, this would score a 0. The study resulted in averaged scores of semesters and years to create a longitudinal comparison with undergraduate demographics in the major of philosophy at the University of Utah. Scores of the gender and race of authors of assigned readings, separately, correlate with the gender and race of undergraduates in the major. This novel research study adds to the literature that supports diversifying the philosophical canon.
University / Institution: University of Utah
Type: Oral
Format: In Person
SESSION A (9:00-10:30AM)
Area of Research: Humanities
Faculty Mentor: Carlos Santana
Location: Union Building, PANORAMA EAST (9:20am)