COVID-19 Updates: Fall Semester

Statement in Support of Black Lives Matter

June 29, 2020

The Middlebury College Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. We are deeply angered at the violence perpetrated on Black communities, including the recent abhorrent murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks, and the state-sanctioned killing of many others. We recognize that recent events are a continuation of centuries-long institutionalized anti-Black racism and white supremacy and that scientists, ourselves included, are complicit in this harm. We acknowledge that our department has not always lived up to the goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have created and failed to break down barriers to full participation in our labs, our classrooms, and our community. The departure from Middlebury College of our only departmental Black faculty member was influenced by these shortcomings. We must and will do better.

We pledge to:

1.    Educate ourselves on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will educate ourselves on issues caused by systemic racism and learn best practices for avoiding implicit bias and for fostering diverse, inclusive, and equitable educational environments. As a department, we will participate in diversity/ally/advocate training and learn how to better listen to those who feel unheard.

2.    Listen to our Black students and other students from groups that are under-represented in science. We will set up an anonymous means for students and alumni to share their experiences in our courses and in the department. Our department chair will invite Black students and other underrepresented students to meet once per semester with the agenda and format set by students.

3.    Dedicate space for departmental faculty to regularly discuss issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Discussions of diversity-related issues will be included on the agenda of regularly scheduled department meetings and on a monthly basis at a minimum. Topics may include, for example, issues raised by students anonymously or in meetings with the Chair, lessons learned in recent diversity-related trainings and workshops, and planning for implementing best practices to minimize implicit bias.

4.    Provide academic enrichment opportunities aimed at increasing participation in our department by Black students and other underrepresented students. We will seek financial support to continue the Martin H. Freeman lecture series, which invites Black scientists to hold seminars of broad interest to the Middlebury science community and provides opportunities for Black students to interact with scientists at the cutting edge of their fields. We will diversify our laboratory research groups, in part by working with existing campus groups that support diversity, equity, and inclusion to recruit students for open positions (e.g., UR-STEM, Posse, Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion).

5.    Use our positions of privilege to promote racial justice in our broader scientific communities. We will leverage our leadership roles within professional networks to promote the cause of racial justice and foster inclusion of scientists from under-represented groups – such as when serving on research grant review panels, inviting speakers for conferences, and participating in elections for professional societies.

6.    Be accountable to students. We will translate what we learn through our diversity and anti-bias training and what we hear from students into actions that will help create a diverse, inclusive, and equitable departmental culture and educational experience. We will report back to students via email each semester on steps we have taken.

We emphasize that these pledges are just a beginning. Guided by what we hear from our Black and other underrepresented students about their experiences in the department, we will assess our progress and missteps, and establish our next steps during annual departmental faculty retreats. Ultimately, we are committed to providing an educational experience for Black students and other underrepresented students that reflects the words of neuroscientist Bianca Marlin to fellow Black academics: “Your presence in science is important. [That] your purpose in science is seen. [That] you are essential in your communities, in the scientific community, and the world as a whole to make the world a better place.”

Sincerely,

The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry (co-signed, alphabetically)

Rick Bunt
Jeff Byers
Bob Cluss
Molly Costanza-Robinson
Cole M. Dovey
Michele K. Dubé
Michael French
Robert Izsak
Jim Larrabee
Judy Mayer
Lindsay Repka
Mary Jane Simpson
AnGayle (AJ) Vasiliou

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

McCardell Bicentennial Hall
276 Bicentennial Way
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753