Teaching for Social Justice During a Public Health & Racism Pandemic: Resources and Best Practices for Centering Equity & Inclusion in the Online Classroom

By Maru Gonzalez, Kimberly Allen, Angela Smith, and Maria Gallardo-Williams

The brutal murder of George Floyd compounded by generations of systemic racism have brought to the fore deep-seated pain, anger, and sadness. Simultaneously, we continue to face a global pandemic that has caused enormous loss of life and economic hardship, the likes of which have disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities. Indeed, the cumulative impact of these events have laid bare the systemic injustices that plague our country and permeate our institutions. Our students are under extreme stress.

We’ve heard stories this week from students saying the events are triggering, making them feel hopeless and helpless. We are hearing from our colleagues that they want to do something, but are unsure how or what to do. More than ever, our students and our university community need support and action.

As educators, we must not let this moment pass us by. It is our responsibility to call ourselves to action and take steps to educate ourselves and to be more intentional about centering equity, diversity, and inclusion in our work with students. To assist in this process, we have compiled a list of best practices, resources, suggested readings, and email templates.

Best Practices:

  • Communicate with students. This can include an email or time in a live session to acknowledge the current events and stress students are under and show support.
  • Communicate with other faculty members. It is easy to feel isolated when teaching remotely, but there is value in sharing experiences with other fellow instructors. This can also be an opportunity to share resources.
  • Provide space in class for a discussion. These topics are on everyone’s mind, so addressing the issues of COVID and social unrest specifically is key. Faculty can provide a space for students who may need to talk through and process what’s happening.
  • Create opportunities for students to support each other. This could be by facilitating an opportunity for students to find connection with their peers in class or set up an open forum in Moodle for student interaction.
  • Share campus and other resources. Let students know that our community is here to help and provide a list of resources (see list below).
  • Be flexible. These events are triggering for many of our students, so being flexible of student needs fosters success.
  • Learn More. Participate in professional development opportunities and read more literature related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Take Action. Taking steps to center equity and inclusion in your teaching.


NC State-Specific Resources for Students:

  • The counseling center has virtual appointments available for students that are not considered distance students. Distance students can review the NCSU Counseling Center website for identifying services and referral outlets for support. http://ncsu.rints.com/ Counselors at the center are able to assist with the referral process.
  • It’s important to center and listen to Black voices, especially now. Check out NC State’s Black newspaper, Nubian Message for important coverage on social issues impacting the campus community and beyond.
  • The Office for Institutional Equity & Diversity (OIED) is committed to fostering a welcoming, inclusive, and equitable campus community. On their website, you can find information on workshops, trainings, and information related to accessibility and Title IX.
  • In case you haven’t seen this, Chancellor Woodson has shared a message with the campus community. Here is an excerpt from it: “As the state’s largest public university, we have the responsibility to educate ourselves and those who pass through our doors to overcome ignorance, unite against intolerance, model inclusivity, and advance the dignity and power of diversity.”
  • Vice Provost Sheri Schwab also released a statement regarding the events in Minneapolis, which can be accessed here.
  • The NCSU Libraries are offering extended technology lending if you find yourself in need of a laptop, etc.
  • Pack Essentials – This program is available to all students. You can fill out an application for the DASA Pack Essentials program – the student emergency fund can often help pay for technology, food, utilities, housing and other critical needs. So far, none of the applications have been denied. https://dasa.ncsu.edu/pack-essentials/
  • Additionally, for those within reasonable driving distance to campus, the Pack Pantry still has pop up pantry hours on Tuesdays and Fridays of every week.
  • The Student Emergency Fund is another valuable resource to support students during times of unexpected financial crisis.
  • Virtual Drop-In Spaces & Self Care Activities
  • On this page, there are resources from Prevention Services called the Care Package Project


Additional Resources & Suggested Readings:


Examples of letters to students:

Below are templates you can use when crafting an email to students.

Sample Letter One:
I am sure that many of you are struggling with recent events and might find it hard to concentrate on your course work. As we were working to recover from an unprecedented pandemic, we are now processing the grief and outrage over the unjust death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, compounded by generations of systemic racism.

We want you to know that the members of our teaching team are here to help you, and that your academic success is our first priority. If you need help with any of the concepts covered in the class, please come to one of our Zoom meetings (times are listed in the welcome letter on Moodle), or ask for a one-on-one zoom meeting. We have flexible times available. Even if you feel that “you should know this” or that it’s “too simple” we really would like to assist you with any doubts you might have. If you have missed any work, it’s not too late to ask for an extension.

Here is a list of resources that might be helpful to some of you. If there is anything else that we could help you with, please let us know:

Sample Letter Two:
I know this has been such a hard week for many. The stress of COVID-19 combined with the social injustices and civil unrest due to systemic racial inequality is overwhelming for many of us. I just wanted to reach out to check in, see how you are doing, and let you know that I care. I agree with our chancellor that we must overcome ignorance, unite against intolerance, model inclusivity, and advance the dignity and power of diversity.

I understand that many of you are struggling with our current events. Like many of you, I too find it hard to concentrate on my work. I want you to know that I am here to help you, and that your health and academic success are my priorities. That means if you are impacted by the trauma in a way that requires you to miss class or ask for an extension on an assignment, I will honor that request. Please let me know if you need additional support and I will do all I can to help.

Additionally, here are resources that you might find helpful this week.