We are representatives of Anti-Racism Alliance in the Sciences (ARAS), a collective of current and former students that has operated since August 2020 to promote a culture of belonging and support in the Division of Science. We advocate for institutional changes that advance diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in many aspects of STEM higher education. We have learned that each department has since formed its own diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) committee. More than a year since our inception, we have observed that expressions of sympathy and mutual understanding have not yet been translated into progress.
In an open letter to the Division of Science published in the Justice on August 27, 2020, a challenge was leveled against what was dubbed the “meritocratic extreme” in science education, arguing that its ethos has been used to rationalize outmoded, non-inclusive teaching practices and a generally unsupportive culture. The letter also argued that the Division’s failure to address this and to prioritize matters of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has produced a litany of inequitable experiences for many of our underrepresented minority students (URM).
An open letter to the Division of Science: About one month before the world changed, still in the midst of my final semester as a student and as the Division’s first Lead Undergraduate Departmental Representative, an associate dean had emailed me in regards to a workshop she attended about efforts to reform undergraduate STEM education, hosted by the Association of American Universities. The initiative is driven by a mission to improve the quality of instruction in science courses and to enhance student retention in STEM fields. Drawing experts from the many niches of higher education, the workshop saw educators from a Midwestern flagship university present the results of an exercise in which students responded to the following prompt: Take some time to reflect on some of the concerns you may have about taking [introductory biology]. What do you think will be difficult or challenging for you? These concerns may be about course content, navigating resources, working in groups, interacting with your TA or professor, and so on.