Department of Physics and Astronomy Statement on Black Lives Matter

The Dartmouth department of Physics and Astronomy is outraged by the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and by the pattern of violence against Black Americans and the long history of systemic racism they represent. We say, unequivocally, that Black lives matter. The Department recognizes our responsibility to combat the racism that continues to be a problem in academia, including the fields of Physics and Astronomy.

We support the statements from our professional societies (the American Physical Society, American Astronomical Society, American Geophysical Union, and American Association for the Advancement of Science) and acknowledge the history of racism spelled out in the statement from our colleagues in the Dartmouth Consortium of Studies in Race, Migration, and Sexuality. We want to thank our Black colleagues and their allies who have been working tirelessly for change.

However, statements are not enough. We have failed to act in the past and cannot continue to be complacent. We therefore commit ourselves to concrete actions from the department, and will deliver updates at faculty meetings.

  • We will review the recommendations of the TEAM-UP (AIP National Task Force to Elevate African American Representation in Undergraduate Physics & Astronomy) report and develop specification recommendations about changes that can be made in our department.

  • We commit ourselves to formally acknowledging work done by Black, Indigineous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students and scientists that is outside of the traditional standards for academic achievements. This includes continuing to do so in departmental evaluations for faculty and staff and departmental prizes for students. We emphasize that the motivation is to celebrate and support important work that often goes unacknowledged, and note that unrecognized service work predominantly burdens BIPOC (Grollman, 2015).

  • We commit to maintaining our current grad admissions choice for the physics and general graduate record examination (GRE) to be optional, and will consider removing it entirely. The GRE has been established as an ineffective means of selecting a talented cohort of graduate students, while proving a barrier to entry for BIPOC as well as white women (Miller & Stassun, 2014).

  • We commit to actively supporting and engaging with the E. E. Just program, which provides opportunities for intellectual engagement, professional growth and mentorship within a diverse and inclusive community of Dartmouth scientists.

  • We commit to highlighting the work of BIPOC scientists across a range of social identities in our departmental activities, for example through collaboration visits, colloquium, and seminars.

  • We will continue to adapt our courses to make them more inclusive in consultation with the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL). This improvement is needed since studies “reveal evidence of persistent racial/ethnic inequality in STEM degree attainment not found in other fields” (Reigl-Crumb et al. 2019). Adaptations include acknowledging the history of racism and discrimination in our fields and discussing the important work done by BIPOC scientists.

  • We will create a regular department-wide space and time to engage with experts and published literature on racism and interpersonal actions, and will seek to interact with Dartmouth departments whose research is relevant to these issues. The role of organizing this would be included on the department committee services list and recognized in equal measure to other departmental service.