History Code of Conduct and Statement of Shared Values

I. Statement of Shared Values

Berkeley seeks to provide and sustain an environment conducive to sharing, extending, and critically examining knowledge and values, and to furthering the search for wisdom. In the History department, we strive to improve our collective and diverse understanding of the past through a complex process of critical dialogue—with each other, with the wider public, and with the historical record. In doing so, we explore former lives and diverse worlds in search of answers to the most compelling questions of our own time and place.

These answers do not come easily. Just as our historical subjects often disagree with one another about fundamentals, so too do historians disagree, at times vehemently, about how to understand the past. These disagreements enrich our discipline and are the source of its liveliness and its scholarly improvement. Professional historians recognize that the contest over interpretation can deepen and enrich historical understanding by generating new questions, new arguments, new lines of investigation, and new observations.

These commitments to dialogue and engagement underpin the most important shared values that define the professional conduct of historians. Key among these is respect. We celebrate above all an intellectual community governed by courtesy, constructive criticism, and reasoned discourse—the continuous colloquy among historians holding diverse points of view who learn from each other as they pursue topics of mutual interest. Only such a community—balancing fair and honest criticism with absolute respect for those expressing different ideas—makes possible the fruitful exchange of views, opinions, and knowledge.

No less essential to the practice and ethos of our professional community are diversity and inclusivity. Multiple, conflicting perspectives are among the truths of history. To understand them and to ensure the integrity of our scholarship, our historical practice must be pursued from many points of view. Indeed, the vitality of our profession depends on its willingness to admit new, previously undervalued or overlooked, voices into its collective conversation. Diverse perspectives must be welcomed into a common discourse, and accorded fair hearing in the forum of historical learning. At its limit, the study of history often can demand engagement with views and values that at best conflict with, and at worst are repugnant to our common sensibilities. Conversations around these are among the most challenging to navigate and demand that we hew most closely to these values of respect, diversity, and inclusion. In short, a robust and inclusive pluralism—of methods, religious and political views, sexual orientations, racial and gender identities, and socioeconomic status, among others—is a cornerstone of our collective scholarly practice and crucial to the success of our collective mission.

These three values are intertwined, not only in our common intellectual endeavors but also in all the work that we perform together. Although of necessity we labor, as students, staff, and faculty, under very different and often unequal circumstances, we nonetheless hold that a shared culture of respect, diversity, and inclusion are essential to our flourishing as both a workplace and a community of learning.

II. Code of Conduct

The code of conduct describes how these shared values can and should organize the various activities of our collective professional life. It lays out a set of expectations that we believe, if met, will create a rich, diverse, and vigorous community of learning. Additional resources about remedies, reporting, and further important reading can be found here.


The advisor-advisee relationship is both rewarding and challenging. On the one hand, it creates an intellectual, professional, and personal dialogue that can last a lifetime; on the other, it necessarily unfolds in a context of hierarchy and asymmetry that can, if ignored or abused, have serious negative impacts on both parties. For the relationship to flourish, it needs to be closely coordinated with the values we hold essential in our community. To that end, both advisors and advisees must be treated with respect and professionalism in their advising relationships. Lines of communication between advisor and advisee should be kept open. Advisors should be fair and objective, responsive and prompt in giving feedback. Advisees should receive equal treatment and mentorship, and see affirmative leadership by example in navigating professional lives and concerns. Both advisors and advisees share the responsibility of addressing problems that arise when we fall short of these shared values. At the same time, these relationships can be complex; in cases of confusion or conflict, the department is committed to assisting in resolution. Departmental leaders such as the Chair, Head Graduate Advisor, Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO), and Student Services Coordinator can all provide guidance and resources to both faculty and students in case it is needed.

Serving as a GSI is part of the professional development of graduate students, as well as an opportunity for our undergraduates to receive excellent instruction and guidance in their own study. The collaborative Faculty-GSI relationship should be governed by the same standards of professional conduct, respect, and inclusivity stipulated in the previous paragraph.


In order to transform the classroom into a space for both generating and imparting historical knowledge, we must make a habit of communicating and modeling respect. Whether in the role of faculty member, GSI, or student, let us express our ideas and opinions in ways that are professional and respectful. If and when we disagree, let it be with a careful eye toward presenting criticisms in a constructive manner aimed at creating productive discussion.

In a small classroom setting, the responsibility for maintaining an inclusive environment where every member of our community feels invited to contribute lies with each of us. Every member of the class should be provided with an equal opportunity to speak without interruption. Each of us possesses a different approach to professional interactions, and we should be alert to signs that others would like to contribute. In terms of physical space, respect should be shown for personal boundaries.

Each of us should pledge our commitment to a diversity of perspectives and ideas. Rather than clinging to our assumptions and guarding our long-cherished beliefs, let us challenge ourselves to consider controversial topics from multiple points of view. This commitment to intellectual diversity should similarly be applied to the ways in which we interact with others in attendance. Do not assume that the perspectives and lived experiences of anyone can be understood solely based on race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, or ability. Remember, too, that personal experiences affect the way people respond to and make sense of historical material. Engage in meaningful conversation and listen carefully to what others have to say.

Finally, when individual members of our department encounter challenges or barriers, we must work collectively to address them. In cases where these standards of respect, diversity, and inclusion fail, it is the shared responsibility of all to confront the issue directly and work toward a solution. If words or actions are deemed hurtful or disrespectful, our first response should be to start a dialogue within the classroom. In any setting where people with different values, beliefs, and lived experiences engage in critical debate, there is a potential for misunderstanding. Many of these misunderstandings can be resolved, however, by extending the benefit of the doubt to others, maintaining an open mind to diverse viewpoints, and empathizing with expressed concerns. Should this attempt at resolving disputes in the classroom fail, there are resources available to our students and faculty to seek departamental support.


The department’s expectation of a culture characterized by respect, diversity, and inclusivity extends also to the shared spaces used by History graduate students. These spaces are important for graduate student learning and community, and their use is a privilege of all graduate students in the department. As these spaces comprise a shared work environment, all members of the department are expected to use them in a professional manner; please adhere to posted expectations regarding cleanliness and noise, and be mindful of whether conversations could have an adverse impact on those who might hear them. An inclusive and respectful manner will help to ensure that all feel welcome to work and interact in these areas.

Graduate student spaces include, but are not limited to, the Graduate Library, Computer Lab, Lounge, and GSI Offices. Access to and participation in activities in these spaces is moderated administratively by the Student Services staff. As of the start of 2018-2019 school year, graduate students are required annually to agree, sign, and return a Graduate Spaces policy agreement. Questions about the policy and its implementation should be directed to the Student Services Director (Ricky Vides, history-ssc@berkeley.edu).


Whether you are attending an academic event on or off campus, remember that as a speaker or attendee you are a representative of this department and university. You are expected to conduct yourself with professionalism and to treat your colleagues with consideration and courtesy. Pose your questions in polite and respectful ways, even if you are expressing disagreement or disbelief. While this is a skill that is honed over time, it is one that we value as a community.

Such events can be occasions to renew old acquaintances, and can be accompanied by events that feel more social than professional. Boundaries between professional and social contexts often blur in these circumstances, and we should conduct our interactions in the most professional manner possible by treating other attendees first and foremost as our respected colleagues.


We are an inclusive and respectful community, both on and off campus, whenever members of our community interact even for non-academic purposes. This means that social gatherings off campus that include members of our community are expected to be characterized by inclusion, respect, and professional behavior toward all individuals.

Many members of our community will choose to use social media. Should you do so in any way that identifies your role in the University of California, Berkeley and in its Department of History, your posts and comments are expected to reflect these commitments to respect, diversity, and inclusion. Keep in mind the following:   

  1. Think before you post. There is no such thing as privacy in social media. Posts made on social media are indexed by search engines, can be replicated widely and quickly, can be taken out of context, and will remain public for an indeterminate amount of time. Posts made even on what seem like strictly personal pages could follow you professionally for years to come. Remember, too, that your posts may affect others as well; the harm caused by thoughtless and unkind remarks can be long-lasting and difficult to repair. If your posts have the potential to affect others in any way, you should secure the prior permission of those who would be affected, as a matter of respect for your friends, colleagues, and interlocutors.

  2. Use good judgment. Be respectful of others and their opinions. Do not post personal information about or images of another person without their explicit consent.

  3. Respect confidentiality.Be careful not to reveal confidential or proprietary information about Berkeley students, employees or alumni. Adhere to all applicable University, federal and NCAA privacy and confidentiality policies. All employees of UC Berkeley, including graduate students, are subject to FERPA,HIPAA, and other laws mandating the non-disclosure of personal information.

  4. Be mindful of the fact that social media platforms are built to connect people. This means that they almost necessarily blur boundaries between personal and professional lives. Special challenges can arise when, for example, professors, GSIs, and/or students share social media connections. Department members should think carefully about how best to maintain the integrity of the student-teacher relationship in these contexts.   

Even when we follow these guidelines, others may not. The result is that some members of our community may experience harassment and threats, and may be the targets of abusive, intolerant, and disrespectful language. The department will support to the best of its ability any of its members who are targeted in this way.

III. Resources

The Code is meant to deepen and specify the standards to which we think the History department should aspire. That said, implementation, enforcement, complaint, and redress are crucial issues. Policies and responsibilities for these are distributed in complex ways, however, with a number of them outside of the department. The following annotated list of resources is offered in hopes of charting this complex terrain so that problems, if and when they arise, can be addressed as swiftly and effectively as possible.

History Department

Any or all of the below are resources available to the wider departmental community to discuss incidents, raise concerns, and seek advice about general and specific issues related to climate. The Department of History has a standing committee on Climate, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, as well as Equity Advisors serving each year. Comprised of faculty, staff, and student representatives, these positions are appointed by the Chair and are tasked with addressing issues that arise related to departmental climate and to challenges to equity, diversity, and inclusion in the broadest sense, and working toward solutions to these challenges. To view a list of current CEDI committee members and Equity Advisors, click here.  

Equity Advisor (For fuller description of this role, see here)

Graduate Student Advisors

Undergraduate Student Advisor

Director of Student Services

Department Chair

For ANONYMOUS reporting to the department, please see the Feedback Form here

Campus Resources

Campus Division of Equity and Inclusion

  • To report a specific incident or act of intolerance, harassment, or hate, see here

Office for Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination

  • Campus office for investigating allegations of discrimination and harassment on the basis of categories including race, color, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation/identity, including allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence.

PATH to Care Center

  • Confidential support for victims and survivors of sexual harassment, sexual violence, sexual assault, dating and intimate partner violence, stalking, and sexual exploitation.

Office for Faculty Equity and Welfare

  • Supporting full  participation in academic careers for all scholars, including individuals who are members of groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education such as women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons.