By Sophie Foster
On Monday, Oct. 10, at 4:30 p.m., the third of a series of forums to address diversity, equity, and inclusion at Washington College took place in Hynson Lounge. This forum centered DEI in the natural sciences and mathematics departments.
The series, headed by Associate Provost of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Senior Equity Officer, and Associate Professor of English Dr. Alisha Knight, was designed with the aim to take a careful look at the College’s strategic diversity plan to more effectively represent and address the needs of marginalized groups on campus.
According to a campus wide email sent by Dr. Knight on Oct. 6, these forums are open both in person and via Zoom to all members of the campus community, whether they have involvement with the centered department or not.
With this specific forum in mind, Dr. Knight said that she wants “to hear your ideas about the College’s DEI goals that relate to the Natural Sciences and Mathematics [departments]. This is an intentionally broad category that can include the curriculum in the NSM departments, STEM programming, experiential learning, mentoring, and research opportunities.
Members of the WC science and mathematics faculty composed the majority of the attendees who gathered both in Hynson and on the Zoom call to listen to the conversation and share their own experiences and reflections. As is the case in each of these forums, Dr. Knight moved from inviting insights into previous successful DEI endeavors to inquiring about potential alterations and improvements that might be made to better address DEI in the scientific and mathematical communities on campus.
According to environmental science and biology double major junior Belle Leiphart, science professors on campus consistently demonstrate receptivity and respect for their students, a practice which include actions as simple as asking students for their pronouns at the beginning of classes each semester and as purposeful as taking time to discuss more thoroughly how the science field can be innately different for people from diverse backgrounds or with unique identities.
“Of course, I’d love to see a greater diversity in the student body,” Leiphart said. “But from what I’ve personally experienced, I think continuing to emphasize and discuss the different experiences people face is a great course of action.”
While the official strategic diversity plan — Pursuing Inclusive Excellence: A Five-Year Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — will continue to be revised and improved upon as these forums and conversations progress throughout the semester, a working draft of said plan can be accessed by members of the Washington College community through the OneDrive created and maintained by Vice President for Planning and Policy and Chief of Staff Victor Sensenig. The next forum in this series is set to take place on Thursday, Oct. 20 to discuss DEI in Student Affairs. All students and members of the campus community are invited to join, and attendees can share their reflections, questions, comments, and concerns via the Qualtrics response survey at https://washcoll.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_ewJSxTRwIUejuuO.
Photo courtesy of Elm Archives.
Photo Caption: The latest DEI forum considered the handling of diversity in natural sciences and mathematics.