Physics and Astronomy Department Norms

The Department Norms is a living document that will be periodically updated as warranted.

The Department aims to create an inclusive, accessible environment in which all members, regardless of identity or prior experience, are supported in exploring their interests in physics and astronomy. All members of the Physics and Astronomy Department should strive to maintain a welcoming and inclusive environment inside and outside the classroom, respect one another, learn and grow, and be mindful of the impact words and actions may have on others in making them feel welcome or unwelcome.

These Department Norms apply to all faculty and staff in the Department; all students taking classes, majoring, and working in the Department; and all attendants at Department events. Faculty, staff, and students have the responsibility to:

  • Conduct oneself with integrity and uphold inclusive practices.
  • In the case that someone does not uphold the norms, speak up when safe to do so. This can be done in the moment or afterward. Avenues for addressing concerns are described below.
  • Instructors and students will discuss norms and how they will be applied in each course.


  • Respect others’ feelings; which may involve using kind words or erring on the side of greater formality in conversations. 
  • Respect others’ personal space, such as by giving space when talking and asking before hugging or touching.
  • Respect identities, such as by learning names and correct pronouns and by avoiding making assumptions about others’ identities.
  • When offering criticism, ensure it is constructive. 
  • Step back—allow others to fully participate in discussions and activities. Recognize how group dynamics due to interactions of peoples’ identities may make participation more difficult for some.
  • Acknowledge and accommodate accessibility needs and struggles with both mental and physical health.
  • Act in good faith and assume others are acting in good faith.

Openness to growth

  • Step up— and participate in collaborative class projects as you are able. All in the Department should acknowledge that there are many forms of participation.
  • Receive criticism constructively, assuming feedback is offered in the spirit of helpfulness, growth and change.
  • Ask for help.
  • Learn and abide by course and College standards for intellectual responsibility.
  • Acknowledge when you fall short of these norms, regardless of the intent of your words or actions, amend your behavior, and take restorative actions.
  • Learn about the experiences and needs of those with different identities and about how to maintain an inclusive and accessible environment. 

Avenues for addressing concerns

We strive to maintain an inclusive community where diversity is celebrated and everyone’s ideas are welcomed. If you have a concern, you should  feel free to discuss it with your advisor, instructor, Department Chair, or the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Here are places you can go to address specific kinds of concerns: 

  1. General concerns (for yourself or another)—Center for Counseling and Mental Health Counseling center.
  2. General concerns (for yourself or another)—case management through the Dean of Students office. Email to meet with a case manager.
  3. General concerns or concerns that you would like to remain anonymous—Leave a comment in the Department Comment Box. (A physical box is located outside the department office and a virtual box can be found on the department webpage.) 
  4. Concerns about sexual harassment and Title IX violations—contact the Title IX Office:  You may also speak with any faculty or staff in the Department. All faculty are mandatory Title IX reporters.
  5. Concerns about Amherst College Student Code of Conduct violations —contact the Community Standards Office.
  6. Concerns about conduct that occurs in a class—contact the professor/instructor for the class.
  7. Concerns about an instructor—contact your advisor or the Department Chair.
  8. Concerns about conduct that occurs at a Departmental event—contact your advisor, another faculty member, or the Department Chair.
  9. Concerns about accessibility—contact accessibility office:
  10. The College Ombudsperson works with individuals and groups to find ways to feel that their work environments are fair and respectful and are places where differences or conflicts can be understood and dealt with constructively.
  11. The Center for Restorative Practices provides student, staff and/or faculty conflict mediation, prevention or resolution that is based on confidential, non-punitive, restorative principles.
  12. Identity Based Harm Review Team is a confidential place for addressing harm related directly to one's identity.

    Faculty, staff and student responsibilities

    Instructors and students will discuss norms and how they will be applied in each course.


    Codes of conduct and other ethical statements that we follow

    Amherst College Honor Code (includes Statement on Respect for Persons)

    APS Meetings Code of Conduct

    AIP list of Resolutions, Policies & Best PracticesAPS Guidelines on Ethics

    AAS Code of Ethics


    Other resources

    Codes of Conduct: Why do we need them? By Heloise Stevance

    Codes of Conduct: Writing Guide by Heloise Stevance

    Harvard Study on Effective Teams and Shared Norms 

    Respect Differences? Challenging Common Guidelines in Social Justice Education by Senso, O. and DiAngelo (2014)

    Videos: Calling In and/or Calling Out and Calling Out vs Calling In