The Psychology Department is committed to equity and inclusion in our teaching, advising, mentoring, and scholarship. This commitment extends to every student at all levels of our curriculum, from the foundational courses within our major to our advanced seminars and honors work. We strive to give every student who takes our courses the tools, resources, and support needed to succeed, and we want all students to see themselves as potential majors in our department, members of our research labs, and thesis writers. As researchers within the field of psychology, we recognize the immense potential of our discipline to help create a more equitable and inclusive world. Research in psychology examines the origins of prejudice and stereotypes, the negative consequences of racism on physical and psychological well-being, and, most importantly, how evidence-based strategies can be used to combat explicit and implicit bias as well as systemic racism. We recognize our responsibility to work actively and in concert with other disciplines towards racial equity both within our college community and more broadly within society.
The following examples describe some of the steps that we've made to demonstrate our commitment to equity and inclusion:
- One of our three learning goals is to help students recognize, understand, and respect the complexity of sociocultural diversity. Many of our foundational classes explicitly examine issues of race and racism, such as how stereotypes and prejudice are created and can be overcome (social psychology), how race and culture influence the risk, assessment, and treatment of psychological disorders (clinical psychology), and how and when individual differences - including race and socioeconomic status - affect development across infancy, childhood, and adolescence (developmental psychology).
- Some of our classes directly focus on race and racism. Psychology 224: Intergroup Dialogue on Race is a highly interactive course that brings together a racially diverse group of students to examine the roles race and other intersecting identities play in their lives. Course work includes an interdisciplinary blend of scholarly readings, in-class dialogue, experiential learning activities, reflective writing, and an intergroup collaborative action project aimed at researching a racial inequity/inequality on campus. The course readings link students’ personal experiences with race to a socio-historical understanding of individual, institutional, and structural discrimination, and students bring their own experiences with race into the classroom as a legitimate process of learning. Psychology 337: Stereotypes and Prejudice is an advanced seminar in which students examine stereotypes, microaggressions, systems of privilege, oppression, and institutionalized discrimination that influence and help maintain racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism and their psychological consequences on the individual and society. Psychology 363: Psychology and the Law examines how race and racism influence various aspects of the legal system, at both micro (e.g., accuracy of eyewitnesses, jury decision-making, and sentencing decisions) and macro levels. Fundamentally this seminar calls into question the basic assumptions, and racialized nature of, the criminal justice system and considers the prospect for criminal justice reform and abolition of the carceral state.
- Faculty are dedicated to presenting more about BIPOC psychologists and their work in our courses at all levels of our curriculum, and providing opportunities for students to read research and write papers addressing topics of racism in their classes.
- We have developed an Introductory Psychology Pilot Incorporating DEI-Application Discussions with the goal of promoting equity, inclusion, and success of all students in this class (which reaches 40-50 percent of all Amherst students). This pilot program includes adopting learning goals that make it explicit that we want students to leave Introduction to Psychology with an understanding that certain groups and/or perspectives have been historically absent and how race, culture, and identity may influence psychological processes; providing content within each of the four distinct units in a standard Introduction to Psychology course that directly relate to DEI issues, including both material that is presented in lecture and articles assigned in the syllabus (e.g., those written by BIPOC scholars and/or examine DEI issues); adding discussions several times during the semester to allow students to gain skills in communication and engagement with the applications between psychological skills/ways of knowing and diversity/equity/inclusion/anti-racism efforts.
- We have formed a faculty-student committee focused on inclusion and belonging. This committee is tasked with: 1) planning events and department-wide initiatives that foster community and inclusion, 2) developing ways of supporting students taking psychology courses (e.g., mentorship programs, information sessions, professional development opportunities, speakers, and events supporting students from specific backgrounds (e.g., students of color, FLI, or LGBTQ+), and 3) identifying ways that the psychology department can increase psychology students’ engagement with, and understanding of, issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Several faculty members work on issues of equity and inclusion in their scholarly work, and often provide opportunities for collaboration on such efforts with students. Professor Aries carried out a longitudinal study of 58 students from the class of 2009. Students from four groups (affluent White, affluent Black, lower-income White, and lower-income Black) were interviewed at the beginning and end of freshman year, and at the end of four years when most were graduating seniors. The study examines the challenges students faced on campus due to their race and social class, and the extent to which learning from diversity actually took place. Participants were interviewed a final time12 years after entry to college at age 30. These interviews provide a window into participants' retrospective thoughts on their learning about race and class while at Amherst; the challenges participants face now in the workplace due to their race, class, and gender; White students' changing understanding of race over 12 years from entry to college to age 30; the messages participants would give their children about race and class; and what Amherst might do better in terms of addressing diversity and inclusion on campus. Following George Floyd’s death, Professor Sanderson co-wrote an oped for USA Today with the former president of the NAACP on how social psychological principles could be used to reform police training. Professor Totton’s work broadly examines stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination from the perspective of the perceiver as well as the target. Her work has specifically focused on the predictors of attitudes towards transgender individuals (who often face high levels of violence, harassment, and discrimination), using both quantitative and qualitative methods.
- We are also dedicated to the goals and actions of the Amherst Anti-Racist Plan as outlined by President Martin on August 3rd, 2020.