BITeS

6 Jun 2020

IONiC: Our commitment to diversity and inclusion

Submitted by Faculty Flo, Slitherin' State University

We are now experiencing national and international unrest and protests against the murder of Black people by the police sparked by the killing of George Floyd less than two weeks ago.

We, the Leadership Council (LC) of IONiC, the online community of inorganic chemistry educators, feel a strong need to speak out on this issue. Black lives matter. 

Racial injustice has a long history in the United States, and the systemic oppression and subjugation of Black Americans is especially troubling to us. We have watched with horror the widespread violence committed by the police against those who exercise their fundamental right to protest. Our most recent annual project meeting in January ended with a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington DC. It was a sobering reminder of, and introduction to, many aspects of racism present in this country.

We recognize the importance of equity: the onus is upon us to achieve equality of experience and outcome, not just to provide equality of access. A lack of diversity in anything we do, in any symposium we sponsor, in any workshop we run, is our responsibility to address.

The LC strives to be inclusive, and we have seen good leadership at times from the chemistry community. However, the statements that have come from some of our institutions, and the initial statement from the American Chemical Society have not resonated with us, failing to address the issue with clarity, strength, and resolve.

Yesterday, a premiere journal of chemistry published an “accepted article” that espoused harmful, bigoted opinions presented in the guise of a scientific report. Among other alarming statements, the article specifically called out "diversity of workforce" as a "negative influence" on the field of synthetic organic chemistry, and claimed that there must be “an unconditional submission of the apprentice to his/her master.”

While that report has been taken down, the damage has been done. The statement we are making today is not the venue to dismantle that article. There are others in the chemistry community who should take on this task. Among other approaches, they should feature researchers with deep subject expertise in this area. That being said, the broader chemistry community has begun the process on Twitter and through other social media outlets. However, we are taking this opportunity to grow and change as an organization. 

Diversity is vital to science. Diverse viewpoints and experiences across cultures make all of us better people, better teachers, and better chemists. The challenges faced by underrepresented groups are clear. White privilege and other forms of privilege are as real in chemistry as they are elsewhere in society.  

We, the Leadership Council of IONiC, have not done enough to combat racism. Not being racist is not enough; we must be anti-racist. We pledge to do more while achieving our goal to build a more representative teaching and learning platform that benefits all:

  • We will educate ourselves about racism and privilege. We will listen to the experiences of IONiC members and others more knowledgeable than us regarding racism and privilege. 

  • We will increase the diversity of our leadership group by actively recruiting among underrepresented groups.

  • We will increase the diversity of contributors to our site by similar active recruiting.

  • We will be more welcoming and inclusive. 

  • We will reach out to graduate students and early career inorganic chemistry faculty.

To meet these objectives, we eagerly invite participation through criticism, suggestions, and ideas that will make our community, website, and projects more inclusive.

We, as inorganic chemists, come from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to form one community. One benefit of the diversity is that we, by working together and learning from each other, become better educators and researchers. We are richer and more interesting because we hear from multiple perspectives. Our community is built on the foundation of "Visible Teaching," where members share their content and provide the context by which that content can be used. Our website, our workshops, and our events all embody this practice in order to improve teaching and learning in the field of inorganic chemistry. 

For 15 years we have worked to be a center for community, conversation, and sharing for all people teaching inorganic chemistry. Going forward, our hope for all members of our discipline is that you will come for the content on the VIPEr website, but choose to stay for the community. 

We will do better. We may make mistakes, but we will listen, learn, and educate ourselves. It has been all too easy to remain complacent. We commit to the hard work that leads to change. We pledge to do what is in our power to do. We will hold ourselves accountable. We will publicly revisit our growth at the start of 2021, and annually thereafter.

 

Anne Bentley - Lewis & Clark College

Nicole Crowder - University of Mary Washington

Hilary Eppley - DePauw University

Anthony Fernandez - Merrimack College

Kyle Grice - DePaul University

Elizabeth Jamieson - Smith College

Adam Johnson - Harvey Mudd College

Shirley Lin - US Naval Academy

Chip Nataro - Lafayette College

Justin Pratt - University of South Florida

Jeff Raker - University of South Florida

Barbara Reisner - James Madison University

Sheila Smith - University of Michigan-Dearborn

Joanne Stewart - Hope College

Kari Stone - Lewis University

Lori Watson - Earlham College

Nancy Williams - Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges