Statements and Updates
Last summer, the Center made a statement on its commitment against systemic racism, police violence, and injustice. The past year has been tumultuous, further illuminating long-standing injustices woven into the fabric of many aspects of society and especially in academia. These have been made more evident by inequalities exposed by COVID-19; a rise in anti-Black and anti-Asian racism and xenophobia, including acts of hate and violence; and the perpetuation of bigotry and other, often interlocking, forms of oppression.
Over the past year, the Center’s staff has met regularly to reflect on our own unconscious bias, evaluate gaps in our knowledge, analyze areas where we have the potential to enact change, and plan the actions we will take to move forward. We continue to grapple with how the Center is complicit in maintaining inequitable structures of power inside and outside of academia. This is an ongoing project. Thus far, we have identified ways to leverage our collective expertise to focus on how we can more actively combat systemic racism and other forms of marginalization in academia and more specifically our unit, so that we might cultivate an environment of belonging.
Our Center brings together academic and public communities and engages them in collaboration and discussion about the interconnected relationship between science and society. Keeping the Center’s mission in mind, we have carefully selected interventions within our purview that can make an immediate and lasting impact. This includes the activities we organize and support, the grants we award, the scholars we recruit to conduct research, teach, and train others, and the ways we communicate, including whose voices we highlight. We are restructuring how the Center facilitates its programming and activities by prioritizing and fostering diverse voices and audiences. This means ensuring participants with different viewpoints and experiences are represented, redefining what constitutes expertise by reaching outside of traditional academic networks, and expanding financial and administrative support for potential participants to include child/family care support. We have also highlighted barriers for audiences which we will work to reduce through changes in (but not limited to) venue selection, accessibility/language accommodations, and program timing and format.
We remain committed to creating more equitable and inclusive policies, systems, and spaces — digital and physical. We recognize that our views, approaches, and goals will evolve over time. This page is dedicated to sharing and tracking our progress. This type of work cannot be done in isolation. Therefore, we welcome and encourage criticism and feedback from scholars, students, members of the University community, outside partners, and the general public.
The associated faculty and staff at the Center for Science and Society (who include researchers and scholars in the humanities, natural and social sciences, law, journalism, and public health) are deeply saddened and outraged by the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, and many others. We condemn the violence against Black and Latinx communities and stand in solidarity with all victims of police abuse, their families, and those valiantly protesting across the country.
We also recognize that, as many of the groups and organizations involved in the protests have cogently argued, the continuing problem of abuse, disrespect, humiliation, and killing of this country’s Black people is fundamentally linked with its histories -- both recent and long term -- of systemic and structural racism. This is not at all to exculpate individual officers or private citizens as somehow not accountable for their part in what we believe to be patently criminal acts. Rather it is to assert that a response that regards these individuals as mere “bad apples” or “rogue officers” is wrongheaded and even disingenuous, especially in light of the nation’s long history of not even adjudicating such killings.
Further, while the national conversation at this moment centers on police reform, we encourage all of our members and supporters to regard this problem as inseparable from inequities in labor, longstanding public health disparities (now particularly exposed by COVID-19), housing, education, and, of course, mass incarceration. Much the same way that Minneapolis’s (and, unfortunately, many other cities’) experiments with weak policing reforms have proved inadequate, we propose that even a deep interrogation of policing in this country will be inadequate to redress inequities which have only grown over the past generation or more. We in this country should not settle for “better policing” while so many other systems remain broken. Rather, we humbly add our voice to those of this nation’s leading justice organizations to argue that we all must have the heart and determination to pursue this moment of protest to its hoped-for conclusion.
We are the Center for Science and Society, a name chosen to reflect our collective ideal that science can and should be used in the ethical service of realizing a more equitable, democratic, humane, and just society. We are committed to articulating perspectives that recognize the value and place of all forms of knowledge and voices. As scientists and scholars, historians and writers, we will continue to regard it as our duty to pursue and communicate this mission through research, education, documentation, dialogues and collaboration with partners inside and outside the traditional academy.
As such, we wish to reaffirm our choice for the Center’s 2019-20 theme, Knowledge and Access, and have decided to extend our exploration of that theme through at least the 2020-21 academic year to focus on equitable and inclusive policies, systems, and digital spaces in our society. Along with our collaborators from across the University and city, we will develop programming that prioritizes underrepresented voices and reflects the diversity of our communities in New York and beyond.
Plan and Progress
Beginning in the summer of 2020, the Center for Science and Society staff has met regularly to consider the biases, limitations, and inequalities inherent in the modern university model and the Center in particular. We are continuing to consider what power and privilege our Center holds, what assumptions prevail in our work, and where seemingly “neutral” policies and activities reinforce an unequal status quo. The plan below is the result of these discussions.
The Center strongly believes that diversity, equity, and inclusion cannot be distilled into a finite checklist or seen as a human resources requirement, but should be interwoven into daily programming, grantmaking, and scholarship. In each action below, we commit ourselves to the active work of building an academic space that is more just, equitable, and accessible to create a community of belonging for all of our staff, faculty, students, and participants. This plan is a living document - in order for the Center’s efforts to succeed, our key areas and priorities must regularly be evaluated, edited, and revised. Status updates will be posted to this page on a quarterly basis. We expect and encourage critique from scholars, students, members of the University community, outside partners, and the general public. Please email us at [email protected] with any comments or suggestions or complete our contact webform.
Our Key Areas
In developing this plan, the Center relied on numerous outside resources including
- Awake to Woke to Work
- Barriers and Strategies by White Faculty Who Incorporate Anti-Racist Pedagogy
- Critical Efforts Against White Supremacy: Reflections of White Women on Anti-Racism Work Within Four-Year Colleges
- A Discussion of Diversity and Inclusivity at the Institutional Level: The Need for a Strategic Plan
- Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University
- A Guidebook for a Campus Self-Assessment of Successes and Challenges in STEM Faculty Diversity and Inclusion
- Navigating Race in Canadian Workplaces
- Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement at Columbia University
- Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education
- Racial Equity Tools
- Shut Down STEM
- “We Are All for Diversity, but . . .”: How Faculty Hiring Committees Reproduce Whiteness and Practical Suggestions for How They Can Change
- University diversity, equity, and inclusion offices referenced: