Dear Neuroscience Majors,
The Neuroscience faculty and staff want to express our awareness and commitment to the issues of racism and marginalization being brought to the forefront by the recent murder of George Floyd and the countless other Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) whom have been victimized. While none of us have lived through the fear and anger with which many of our BIPOC students experience, the current situations demand us to try to understand and work toward eradicating the systemic issues of racism here on our campus, in our communities, and in our country. We are committed to learning about historical aspects of our country's oppression and racism as well as to facing and changing the current challenges facing our students. We are open to suggestions from you, our students, as we make our classrooms, our major, and Amherst a more welcoming and inclusive place.
-The Neuroscience Program at Amherst College
As an interdisciplinary major and program, we also endorse and subscribe to the antiracist efforts of STEM departments:
We appreciate the broad work the Neuroscience community is doing in the important areas of equity, inclusion, and justice.
The Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN), an organization with which many of us are members, has put together a statement that we acknowledge and support:
Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
We join our voices with countless others across the country in an unequivocal condemnation of police brutality, institutionalized racism, and all forms of anti-black violence. As a scientific community, we acknowledge that our own past is filled with examples where we have brought violence against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), from histories as overt as the Tuskegee Syphilis trials or the unethical use of Puerto Rican women as subjects in birth control trials to the more pernicious acts of everyday racism that occur in our colleges and universities. Unfortunately, we are still not far from this history. This past week, George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, and as COVID-19 ravages the globe and affects all of us in deeply painful ways, our BIPOC communities have disproportionately carried the burden.
However, insofar as we have been complicit in racism, we also hold the tools for a robust participation in the work of anti-racism. What we do with students in our classrooms and in our labs is not separate from the work of racial justice. We all have our part to play. Indeed, we as scientists must marshal all our skills (yes, even pipetting!) toward creating a brighter future and more equitable world. As scholar-teachers, we must create neuroscience as an inclusive space for our students, especially for our students of color. FUN commits to taking concrete steps to further educate, equip, and heal our community.
We make 4 commitments to action that will be implemented in our organizational structure and future programming:
(1) Reflection toward action: We commit to intentional reflection on the ways in which we participate in systems of oppression. We believe that only through critical reflection can we begin to identify and then dismantle these systems. We commit to making FUN programming, committee membership and leadership opportunities accessible and inclusive, and we commit to taking this step together as a unified community that recognizes the reality and pain of racial inequality.
(2) Science as healing: We recognize the need to create a safe space for BIPOC neuroscientists to share stories, struggles, and strategies for healing. We commit to creating this space.
(3) Research as resistance: We commit to highlighting neuroscience research, especially by undergraduate students, that inform the biological, biopsychology, and behavioral ramifications of chronic oppression.
(4) Pedagogy of the oppressed: We commit to supporting faculty and programs in their anti-racism work, through workshops and sessions on inclusive excellence in STEM which recognize the full humanity and full potential of BIPOC students and perspectives. This means a focus on inclusion as well as diversity, and a rejection of deficit-informed methods.
These commitments are just the beginning and we will use our summer 2020 virtual meeting to take the first steps. As a diverse and vibrant community, FUN has a responsibility to our members to take action. As a leader in undergraduate neuroscience, we have a duty to the broader scientific community to advance the ideals of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.
Ron Bayline, FUN Past President
Mary Morrison, FUN President
Kurt Illig, FUN President-elect
Veronica Acosta, FUN Treasurer
Lora Becker, FUN Treasurer-elect
Carlita Favero, FUN Secretary
Hewlet McFarlane, FUN President’s Advisory Council
Leah Chase, FUN President’s Advisory Council
Susan Banks, FUN Councilor
Gerald Griffin, FUN Councilor
Siobhan Robinson, FUN Councilor
Jackie Rose, FUN Councilor
Michelle Tong, FUN Councilor
Alo Basu, FUN Councilor and Workshop Committee co-chair
Jason Chan, FUN Workshop Committee co-chair