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Graduate Students Organize Minorities and Philosophy Chapter

Philosophy graduate students Lavender McKittrick-Sweitzer and Jenni Ernst have founded a chapter of the international organization Minorities And Philosophy (MAP) at Ohio State. As of this autumn semester, the group is officially recognized as a MAP chapter.

Through its 47 (and counting) chapters in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia, MAP encourages discussion about minority issues within the profession, philosophy representing minority perspectives and theoretical issues in the philosophies of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, and so on (see Our MAP for the Gap).

At Ohio State, the MAP chapter evolved from WiPhi (Women in Philosophy), an informal reading group for women undergraduates, graduate students and faculty. Unlike WiPhi, MAP is an inclusive group -- one does not need to be a member of a minority population to join and participate in the group’s activities -- and it addresses issues relevant to not only women but also other minority populations inside and outside of philosophy.  

Jenni states that she sees MAP as a “great opportunity for us as a department to provide a more supportive environment for everyone.”

Assistant Professor Julia Joráti and Visiting Assistant Professor Amy Shuster are serving as the group’s faculty advisors. Julia had cofounded the very first MAP group during her PhD studies at Yale University, and initially suggested that Lavender and Jenni start a chapter at Ohio State as they were considering ways to make WiPhi more active and more inclusive.

During autumn semester, MAP is holding a reading and discussion group on the topic of implicit bias. According to Lavender, this topic was chosen because it is a broad issue that affects many populations, in addition to raising complex philosophical issues. In spring, the reading group will focus on issues surrounding disability, including mental illness (an issue of professional as well as philosophical concern). MAP also plans to host a guest speaker on the theme.

Lavender and Jenni have expressed hope that, in future years, the Ohio State chapter will organize a joint conference with other regional MAP chapters.

Describing the vision of the new MAP chapter, Lavender says, “Over the past year there have been many interesting and fruitful discussions both among the graduate students, and between graduate students and faculty, about issues that affect minorities in philosophy. It’s clear that there is a growing interest here at Ohio State surrounding disability, gender identity and race, to mention just a few. We think that MAP can serve as a structured and constructive outlet for members of the department to express their interests. The hope is that this will not only have a positive impact on our department, but the discipline as well.”