Statement of Commitment and History
In response to Dr. Leslie Hill’s message asking about what work has happened in our units/programs/departments/divisions, we have briefly detailed some of the planning and development of curricula and policies that some of us in STEM are undertaking to try and “imagine, create, and then enact ongoing anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-elitist, and anti-heterosexist standards and practices.” We acknowledge from the outset that these efforts are inadequate because the lived experiences of many BIPOC students, faculty and staff in STEM at Bates is not one of thriving, but often one of just surviving. Racial oppression necessitates long term structural change. We can and should do better to take responsibility for dismantling systemic racism and white supremacy in all of the ways available to us.
A Little History
Our recent efforts were initiated by Crystal Williams, Kathy Low, and Clayton Spencer and supported by DOF staff in response to many and significant challenges voiced by our students in 2015-2016. A short history and commitment to ongoing work for some STEM faculty with participating administration, staff, students, alumni, and community members includes:
- Learning about in-class experiences, Ann Marie Russell, the then Director of Institutional Research, Analysis, and Planning presented data regarding grade and outcome disparity for students in STEM according to financial capacity, first generation status, and race. Evaluating evidence that some students, especially Black students, are facing institutional barriers to success in STEM at Bates. Learning that these barriers include racist policies, practices, and pedagogical frameworks. By all accounts, this learning was and is painful and continues to challenge white normative paradigms in STEM at Bates.
- Conducting focus group interviews with Bates BIPOC students and with STEM faculty to learn about experiences in STEM at Bates. Identified structural barriers such as deficit-minded pedagogies and “weed out” culture. Identified personal barriers such as low social belonging for some students.
- Creating the Bates STEM Initiative (2016) with the mission: “Bates College aspires to become a model program, grounded in the liberal arts and an inclusive culture, that fosters STEM success in underrepresented racial and ethnic groups through deliberate culture change, including deep research experiences, engaging curricula, inclusive pedagogy, and intentional mentoring.” Some actions taken:
- Some faculty, staff and administrators read literature (including Stamped From the Beginning followed by a long discussion with Dr. Ibram X Kendi), attended workshops, visited schools with successful programs, and investigated the barriers to success in STEM and pedagogies and practices that support student thriving.
- Some faculty, staff and administrators committed to working on structural and pedagogical changes for STEM curricula and practices. With broad participation and reflection, they revised Bates’ application and received HHMI funding to support efforts to catalyze institutional change to support inclusion and equity.
- Engaged in the “Emerging Scholars” symposia program to learn about new research directions in our disciplines and make visible the work of BIPOC scholars in our fields.
A Statement of Commitment:
- Developing a mission statement for STEM at Bates College: “The goal of our program is for any student at Bates who is interested in STEM to be provided with an inclusive curriculum, support structures, and dedicated faculty and staff mentors to ensure that they have the opportunity to thrive. We are especially committed to working for an equitable and inclusive learning environment for STEM interested students from historically marginalized or minoritized backgrounds that will promote their success in STEM.” Some ongoing actions taken:
- Engaged most STEM faculty and staff in semester long (3 full days with reading/homework in between) racial equity training. Some faculty and staff continue deepening their learning through participation in further workshops (e.g., Tuyuryaq: a model for decolonizing learning on college campuses hosted by Kristen Barnett; A chance at birth – Understanding the role of social positioning in inclusive practices led by Bryan Dewsbury) and reading groups (e.g., Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini; How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi). Others shared podcasts, talks, and publications that helped them understand white supremacy and the ways that racism has been baked into the fabric of our disciplines, teaching practices, and institutions.
- Providing numerous professional development opportunities for faculty and staff to learn about and to develop inclusive pedagogies and practices to increase positive outcomes, especially for BIPOC and FG students. These opportunities include learning communities, outside speakers and workshop facilitators, as well as consultants and our VPEI, Noelle Chaddock, who have helped faculty and staff ground their work in evidence-based practices and anti-racist paradigms.
- Creating revised and new courses that are intentionally designed to increase equity and inclusion (e.g., active learning, course-based research, cohort communities, increase visibility of BIPOC work in STEM). Commit to using assessment data and new evidence from the literature to revise until all students are thriving. Utilize collective work in these processes, including self-assessment, peer/colleague insight, internal institutional expert support, and external expert support.
- Evaluating policies and practices (e.g., grading, group work, exams, etc.) that increase stereotype threat, implicit bias, deficit mindedness, and other paradigms that undermine student success. Committing to changing policies and practices that exclude students or reproduce/reinforce structural hierarchies.
This list is not comprehensive and our efforts will be ongoing. We are committed to collecting and using assessment data regarding student outcomes and authentically listening to the lived experiences of students in STEM at Bates. We will also learn from faculty and staff about their experiences. We commit to further learning within and beyond our community, especially centering the voices, expertise, and knowledge of our BIPOC colleagues, students, and community members. We are interested in working with others across campus in ways that support efforts to decrease structural racism and anti-Blackness. We know that we will make mistakes and we acknowledge our limitations. However, we will use evidence and lessons learned to inform cycles of further reflection, learning, and action. We pledge to continue to center this work that is long overdue.