August 18, 2019 | 83° F

Rutgers organization works to include misrepresented groups in philosophical conversation

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Sabrina Huwang, a member of Minorities and Philosophy (MAP), said the organization looks to address a misrepresentation of minority groups in philosophical fields of study and to help bring them into the conversation.

Rutgers—New Brunswick is among the world’s top schools for studying philosophy, and now a new group on campus is working to incorporate people from all walks of life into the mix. 

Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) strives to identify issues regarding a lack of minority participation in the discipline, and help to include these underrepresented groups and people in the discussion, said Sabrina Huwang, an organization member. 

“It’s not just for minorities, we welcome everyone,” the School of Arts and Sciences sophomore said. “That's what we really want to get at, like we really do welcome everyone for discussion and dialogue, because that’s how we shed light on issues.”

Huwang said she did not expect to become a philosophy major when she came to Rutgers, but fell into it by accident. 

After taking a logic course and not liking it, she took what became her favorite class, Introduction to Philosophy — Writing Intensive, which sparked her passion for the field of study, she said.

The course had an interesting curriculum, she said. It covered several topics like the philosophy of religion, free will and epistemology — the study of knowledge — which became one of her favorites.  

“I guess I wish there would be more marketing to underrepresented groups, because philosophy isn’t something someone necessarily thinks about majoring in immediately when they go into college,” Huwang said. 

Ayanna Thompson, a member of the student group and a School of Arts of Sciences sophomore, said that organizations like MAP can be the bearers of change.

“A lot of the time when people think about philosophy they think of ancient Greek men, they don’t often think that it’s something for them,” she said. “So the mission is to try to include (minority groups) in the study as philosophy is a subject that needs different people to thrive.”

Through discussions and events, the group hopes to bring new diversity to philosophy, which Huwang said is a traditionally male-dominated field in the humanities. One of their first events is happening later today.

It is called the “ImPIEstor Syndrome Workshop,” a play on imposter syndrome which is when someone feels like a fraud or that they do not belong even when they have accomplished a lot, Thompson said. 

The group and those who come out will eat pie, discuss and share experiences dealing with imposter syndrome all while connecting people with campus resources.

Huwang said it is open to both graduate and undergraduate students, which she thinks is beneficial.

“When you see graduate students you think ‘they made it, like they're so smart in something,’ and sometimes that may not necessarily reflect how they feel,” she said. “So it’s kind of interesting to see these people you look up to be more vulnerable and discuss their own challenges (and) overcoming them.”

She said imposter syndrome can impact everyone, but minority populations might be more susceptible to the feeling. 

“So specifically in academia it can make members of such groups more susceptible and more vulnerable to the imposter syndrome,” she said. “It’s kind of like ‘well what if I got in because of affirmative action or something’ … That workshop that we’re going to have, its kind of like trying to fight that and give valuable resources and advice, and discuss how our own experiences have shaped us.”

Thompson said that having the University advocate for groups like hers and similar ones, letting students know that the philosophy major is open to them, might help recruit a more diverse set of people.  

Everyone has different experiences, which is why it is important to have minority voices heard in philosophical discussion, Huwang said.

She explained that the term “minority” is a blanket term and even that alone does not address the differences between individuals and groups that fall under it.

“But it’s difficult, because there are so many different minorities and even when you say more specific like Asian Americans or something like that, it’s still incredibly awkward because there’s so many different Asian Americans within that category,” she said.

Huwang said blanket terms can be frustrating, because different people will face different challenges.

MAP is new to Rutgers but has seen overwhelming support from the Department of Philosophy and University students, Thompson said.

“What it seeks to do is identify issues of minority participation in academic philosophy … I think that sometimes we need to approach things with more inclusion and diversity. So I think that’s the goal of MAP," Huwang said. 

Ryan Stiesi

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