Playing off of the acronym JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion), Liao writes for Amstat News: The Membership Magazine of the American Statistical Association, drawing parallels between current problems in academia and the weaknesses that lead to the downfall of the Jedi Order in the Star Wars movie series.
Liao, an assistant professor of statistics at Amherst, points out how both the Jedi Order and modern universities have hierarchical power structures in which some people occupy long-standing positions of privilege and control over others. In addition, she argues, just as the Jedi abide by a strict dichotomy between the “light side” (good) and the “dark side” (bad), academics tend to follow a narrow idea of what constitutes success versus failure, and which goals and projects should be prioritized over others. Liao describes the Jedi Order and the academic world alike as a “rigid system with little room for humanity or failure.”
The professor closes with a quote from her favorite novelist, Haruki Murakami, about creating a more humane system by “believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others’ souls and … in the warmth we gain by joining souls together,” followed by a sentiment from Star Wars: “May the Force be with us!”