In my last post I talked about the actions I plan to take to combat racism in academia and science. I have also been reading with great interest the committments from both academia and industry. Here is one example of how racism is embedded in the computing community, and how I implicitly contributed to it.
It has been a week since #ShutDownSTEM and #Strike4BlackLives on June 10, which was a day to give Black academics in STEM a brief rest and non-Black academics in STEM a time for reflection, education, and planning to eradicate anti-Black racism from our institutions.
Resources and personal experiences poured in through Twitter (especially the #BlackInTheIvory hashtag). The first thing that became immediate is that I have a lot of reading to do. The second thing is simply that reading is not enough. We cannot have this movement end in a day, in a week, in a month, in a year. We all need to work to disrupt the status quo of academia, and there have been calls to action (Michael Eisen’s editorial and Black in Computing’s open letter are just two of many examples). So, in my small way, I’ve made a plan of action.
It’s summer, and faculty have submitted their grades, attended their last faculty meeting, and have gleefully moved on to full-time summer research. Faculty on sabbatical have a few more precious months to wrap up the year’s worth of research projects before returning to teaching. Sabbatical is not over, but the end is in sight.
The last few weeks were a whirlwind of meetings – first to Memphis, TN to the NCWIT Summit, where I received an Undergraduate Research Mentoring award. I ate some hot chicken, saw the Grand Ole Opry, and did some novice line dancing.
I then flew to Madison, WI for the Great Lakes Bioinformatics conference. It was a great meeting – the talks presented new and innovative ideas in bioinformatics and computational biology. I gave two talks — a research talk on hypergraph connectivity measures for signaling pathway analysis and an education talk on undergraduate engagement in computational biology through conference attendance. Materials related to these talks will be posted on my website in the next few weeks.
Madison and the University’s campus has changed a lot since I was a kid, but I was excited to introduce the Great Dane Pub to some folks. I also probably talked about cheese curds more than I should have. I also caught up with other liberal arts computational biology faculty: Layla Oesper from Carleton, Catie Welsh from Rhodes, and Getiria Onsongo from Macalester. Undergraduate institutions in the midwest are certainly stepping up their computational biology game!
Summer research is now in full swing, with three students and two post-bacs working on a bunch of different projects. I’ve also taken advantage of the outstanding (dry!) Portland weather to get back into playing ultimate frisbee – my last sabbatical goal is to not get (too) injured.
Yet another example of how sexism can creep into academia: as CMU’s business incubator became more prestigious, its female founder’s role became marginalized.
Read an interview with Dr. Blum in NEXT Pittsburgh: Lenore Blum shocked the community with her sudden resignation from CMU. Here she tells us why.
Coverage from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: 2 CMU computer science professors — including founder of Project Olympus incubator — resign
The Inside Higher Ed blog just had a short opinion article by M. Soledad Caballero and Aimee Knupsky at Allegheny College about the praise of “Prickly Women.” A quote from the article appears below.
They are known throughout history as the “killjoys,” the “ice queens,” the “hysterics,” the “ball-busters.” They are the “Prickly Women” — the women who don’t let things go, who stand up for themselves and others, and who question the status-quo of structural inequities and outdated institutional practices. They stick out decidedly among the “bro-hood” of academic administration.
Despite the negative connotations and perceptions they incite, Prickly Women have exactly the kind of insight and persistence needed as the crises in higher education continue to mount.
Zuleyka Zevallos, an applied sociologist who does policy research in Australia, just wrote an excellent blog post about racism in academia. While it speaks directly to researchers and faculty, it’s worth a read for anyone.
Racism in Research and Academia – The Other Sociologist by Dr. Zuleyka Zevallos