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TCNJ School of Science Stands in Solidarity and Challenges Itself to Enact Change Towards Inclusive Excellence

Dear Members of the TCNJ School of Science Community,
 
The School of Science stands in solidarity with Black people and acknowledges that historical, institutionalized, and present-day racism causes immense pain and harm to Black people in our country and to Black people in the TCNJ community. As we reflect over the last two weeks of protests for #blacklivesmatter and prepare to #shutdownstem on June 10 ([1]), we remember that the criminal justice system is just one issue in the long history of systemic racism towards Black people in the United States—the STEM disciplines need to confront our own biases and complacency in systemic racism, misogyny, classism, and other group marginalizations.
 
During this pandemic, members of the Black community are overrepresented in COVID-19 hospitalizations and are twice as likely to die from the viral infection ([2]). New infections of HIV are growing the fastest among the Black community ([3]). Black communities are 75% more likely to live next to a chemical or oil refinery plant, which drastically increases respiratory issues and decreases life expectancy due to poor air quality ([4]). As climate change increases the number of hurricanes and severe storms, Black communities are more likely to suffer from flood damage ([5]). The artificial intelligence algorithms for self-driving cars are more likely to hit a Black person than a White person ([6]). Even a prestigious journal, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, recently published and deleted a racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic peer-reviewed essay ([7]). As a School, we commit to recognizing and redressing systematic discrimination against the Black community.
 
The School of Science is actively working to improve equity, inclusion, and diversity, yet we must continue working to shift our culture to one that is fully equitable for Inclusive Excellence. We challenge ourselves to enact change to create inclusive, equitable, and just spaces for our marginalized communities through our long-term efforts and, at this historical moment, specifically in support of our Black community members within the School of Science, TCNJ, Ewing, New Jersey, and the nation.
 
For #shutdownstem, the School of Science takes President Foster’s and Vice President Felton’s challenge ([8]) to stand together to battle against racism and hate. Educating ourselves on marginalized communities and the structures that reinforce marginalization is paramount to being a strong ally. As a great start, we recommend How to be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi. For additional reading, Victoria Alexander has curated a very good book list on how to be a better ally ([9]). For those who enjoy movies and documentaries, we can suggest 13th([10]) When They See Us, ([11])The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson, ([12]), and Just Mercy ([13]). For shorter videos, try a conversation with Emmanuel Acho ([14]), a primer on systemic racism ([15]), and Jay Smooth’s TedX talk on discussing race ([16]).
 
On June 10—for #shutdownstem—we challenge our School of Science community to pause our usual STEM work; rather, spend time reading, watching, and learning and then discussing with others an action plan to combat systemic racism and hate, focusing on the areas that are in our direct control (e.g., our courses, curricula, and pedagogy; how we interact in groups and courses; how we structure our meetings/activities for work and clubs; how we respond to racism by peers; etc.). Wherever each of us starts today, we must continue our path towards Inclusive Excellence.
 
With great resolve,
 
Members of the School of Science Student Success/Inclusive Excellence Committee
 
   Jeffrey M. Osborn, Co-ChairDean, School of Science; and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs-elect
  
   Benny Chan, Co-Chair; Professor of Chemistry
 
   Amanda NorvellProfessor of Biology; and Interim Dean-elect, School of Science
 
   Luke ButlerAssociate Professor of Biology
 
   Angela CapeceAssistant Professor of Physics
 
   J. Lynn Gazley; Associate Professor of Sociology
 
   Donald Hirsh; Professor and Chair of Chemistry
 
   Judit Kardos; Assistant Professor of Mathematics
 
   Laurel Leonard; Assistant Dean, School of Science
 
   Janet Morrison; Professor of Biology; and Barbara Meyers Pelson ’59 Chair in Faculty-Student Engagement (2015-2018)
 
   LaMont Rouse; Assistant Director of Assessment
 
   Andrea Salgian; Professor and Associate Chair of Computer Science
 
   Kerri Thompson Tillett; Associate Vice President of Equity and Inclusion
 
   Erin Jo Tiedeken; Science Grant Writer
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