Diversity, Equity & InclusionOur current actions on race and the issue of institutional and the systemic racism focuses on the challenges faced by people of color in academia (and specifically STEM) with engagements and workshops organized with the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science and pro-bono science communication workshops for minority groups in academia. A Statement from Director Nita Farahany
Our Actions and Commitments
- Requiring faculty and staff to take continuing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training. Including the theme of race and racism in the educational content and setting up a healthy classroom debate on these sensitive topics is a necessary step to address the systemic challenges of people of color inside and outside of academia. However, it is difficult. Most faculty members wish to be proactive, but acknowledge that doing it poorly can do more harm than good. Faculty and staff would welcome training on how to address systemic racism in the classrooms and to create a welcoming environment for students to raise those issues. The training needs to focus on designing syllabi and educational content that include the theme of race in science and technology ethics and policy, accurately recognizing implicit racial biases and institutionalized, systemic racism, and correctly addressing them. The training should continue throughout the academic year, with meetings at the beginning, middle and end of the semester to provide checkpoints for faculty and staff to share their experiences and provide the necessary feedback to effectively implement new systems. We have been in touch with the Duke Office of Institutional Equity to incorporate DEI training for faculty and staff and will prioritize these efforts in the coming months. Expanding this program to interested partners, like the Energy Initiative, can decrease the cost of acquiring the training.
- Including a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) curriculum among the required coursework of Science and Society’s MA program. The curriculum should include sessions on the racial history of the United States and select foreign countries, Duke’s own racial history as well as ways in which that history evolves into institutionalized and systemic racism that can depress opportunities for African Americans and other minorities. The curriculum should also provide training on how to proactively recognize discrimination and implicit bias, how to address it, and how to engage in an open and constructive debate on the topic of race.
- Setting up processes to address students’ concerns with inclusion in a timely manner. Duke has a Zero-Tolerance Policy with respect to discrimination. However, implicit and systemic bias can take forms that are difficult to detect even for the victims that experience emotional and professional damage. Currently Science and Society has no internal process to address the unique challenges of people of color in academia and to offer solutions. Setting up those processes would give agency to students who experience various form of discrimination or who witness the discrimination of others. For instance, a counselor’s office within Science and Society can provide a safe space for students to express discomfort, address those issues within Science and Society, and provide guidance, at the request of the student, on how to bring the issue to the Duke Office of Equity and Inclusion. The additional set-up of an online system would allow students to report incidents anonymously. This figure will need to be included in the organigram of Science and Society with the goal of making the position compensated in 2021-2022 and receive continuing training on how to recognize and address these sensitive issues.
- Prioritizing diversity in Science and Society’s recruitment processes. Increasing diversity among faculty members and students requires revising the hiring process, the recruitment process, and student selection criteria for all academic programs of Science and Society. Reaching out to fellowship groups for high-achieving African Americans or other minorities in peer institutions and shifting selection criteria away from overly relying on student academic achievements would expand representation of talented students from underprivileged backgrounds into future cohorts.
- Prioritizing diversity in the programming of events. The events that are organized at Science and Society, like the Coronavirus Conversations, provide an excellent platform to showcase the plurality of voices and experiences in STEM. To routinely and consistently amplify anti-racist content we need to design a process that specifically incorporates diversity considerations in the programming of our events. Diverse panels expand the range of expertise and the points of view presented, providing an inherent value to the events that should be included in their internal ex-post evaluation.
- Emphasizing diversity in written publications. Science and Society’s research seeks to create a positive impact on society. The documents published by Science and Society should thus include DEI consideration to represent multiple experiences and viewpoints in our policy recommendations. We need to design processes to ensure that our public-facing documents are citing scholarly writing from a diversity of individuals and to make sure we are considering the priorities of underprivileged and discriminated communities when making policy recommendations.
- Community building with other local institutions. The platform of Science and Society can amplify programs of local educational institutions and non-profit organizations that empower African American communities and other minorities in the Triangle. Reconnecting with the broader Durham community can also take the shape of cooperation with local programs, by building that cooperation into the syllabi and programs curricula and by expanding coursework offerings on the relationship of minority groups with the scientific community and their access to technology.
- Supporting student-driven efforts with respect to equity and inclusion. Science and Society should empower, support and provide resources to student-driven efforts, including: (i) the organizations of panels, reading groups and events that develop a critical thinking on the intersection of race and ethics, (ii) efforts that connect Science and Society to the larger Durham community, like fundraisers or volunteering with local organizations. Financial resources, mentoring and inclusion of these programs in the student curricula are ways to support student-driven efforts.
- Surveying Science and Society’s alumni on gaps in addressing racial discrimination. Any concrete action taken without taking into account the experience of students, faculty and staff risks being ineffective. Reaching out to former students and staff to elucidate where Science and Society succeeds and where it fails in promoting an anti-racist environment would reveal how to better align our action to the greater goal of ending racial discrimination.