Stand up for Equity and Inclusion!

Science is Power and we all need to be at the table

Science has the power to change the course of history for better or for worse. This claim has many historical examples to support it. Therefore, I believe, science’s power to change the course of history should not be in the hands of the few. Equity and inclusion are moral imperatives for every society. Fortunately, SFSU is taking steps to alleviate one urgent inequity – anti-Black racism on its campus.

The atomic bomb, nuclear missiles, gunpowder, vaccines, antibiotics, and pharmaceutical drugs– science is everywhere. It permeates our lives. The history of science is littered with atrocities and enumerated with triumphs. But today we have scientific discoveries that would make Mary Shelley’s monster shake and quake in his boots. Further, what’s astonishing is that these discoveries are far from fiction. Cloning, gene knock-out, CRISPR CAS are just some of the new and very real tools in modern scientists’ toolboxes. The scary resonating question is, “What will we as scientists do with these tools?” No one knows but I do know this for sure-- Science in all of its forms is power. But militarized science is uber power.

Military might and scientists have been bedfellows since 5000 BC. UCLA’s distinguished Sociology Research professor Michael Mann states, “Many prominent scientists, including Tartaglia, Galileo, Newton, Descartes, Bernoulli, and Euler have devoted their time and intellect to helping solve military problems. Subsequently, the Industrial Revolution and its inventions impacted the military through the transition from sailing ships to vessels propelled by steam engines. But, also by the introduction of mechanized (mass) production techniques for manufacturing military equipment.”

Science’s power is undeniable, and we all need a seat at the table for science’s world altering discussions. It’s a moral imperative that we stand up for equity and inclusion!

I believe strengthening equity and inclusion in our universities is profoundly needed. Fortunately, SFSU has been strengthening its anti-racism policies in the wake of last summer’s racial tragedies. President Lynn Mahoney and her administration are taking additional steps to alleviate some of the ills of campus racism. And Dean Carmen Domingo has created a CoSE Task Force against racism to lessen resurfacing inequities. Additionally, Biology Chair Laura Burrus, has initiated “Lifting Black Voices in STEM” (LBVS), a group whose sole purpose is combatting anti-Black racism on campus. In a recent LBVS survey, African American students were asked to answer some questions about racism on the SFSU campus. One question that was asked was, “Approximately, how many times in the last year have you experienced anti-Black racism from faculty or staff at SFSU?” Twenty-eight African American undergraduate students from the Biology department answered the survey. The results are below.

These results make me feel hopeful, but our sample size was small, and it was mainly comprised of undergrads. Conversely, Black graduate students I’ve spoken to have experienced a great deal of anti-Black racism on the SFSU campus.

In closing, the efforts of SFSU to make permanent changes on its campus seem insurmountable to me at times. I would really love to see racism in all of its ugly forms disappear. But, of course, that’s not possible. But what is possible is the uniting of all like-minded folks against racism. I might be naïve, but I do believe that there are enough good humans in this world to fight our current and incoming tribulations.

Wim A. Smit Military Technologies and Politics

The Oxford Handbook of Contextual Political Analysis

Edited by Robert E. Goodin and Charles TillyPrint Publication Date: Mar 2006