Sciences offering more opportunities for minorities
While minority figures in the sciences have long been absent or overlooked, on February 8 a panel of individuals gathered in Kresge Auditorium to lend guidance to students on this pressing issue.
Many of those who had assembled sought to break the glass ceiling that has far too long barred women and individuals of color from prestigious jobs that afford recognition. The students, mostly upperclassmen, were all too aware of the injustices that they would soon face in the job world. The panel of professionals, however, had consolation and advice to offer.
Several of the speakers argued that simple common sense will ultimately force researchers and people in the sciences to accept a more diverse faculty. A true diversity of views will inevitably lead to greater progress at a more rapid pace. Therefore, basic self-interest, more than protest or law will ultimately lead to better positions for minorities in the sciences.
However, the appearance of a diverse group of people can be somewhat misleading. Several of the panelists indicated a diverse looking group of individuals is often mistaken for a truly multicultural group with a wide range of views. However, people can look very different and still think the same. Furthermore, it was pointed out that there is no use in bringing minorities to universities that do not provide accepting climates. Students in the audience, on the other hand, protested that in order for accepting climates to be created, individuals from minority groups must take the first steps in creating a niche for themselves.
Yet these first steps can often prove to be a huge burden for an individual to bear. For a single person to carve out a niche for themselves can be too much to ask for in some cases. In order to remedy this, panelists suggested that it is time to turn this issue around and make it the duty of the departments to deal with issues of prejudice and discrimination in universities rather than counting on individual teachers.
Furthermore, prejudice against minorities in the academic arena does not always come from department heads or positions of high authority. Instead, female professors and professors of color often face the greatest challenges from the students themselves. College students approach classes with certain preconceived notions concerning the parameters that they expect the authority figure-i.e. the professor-to fulfill.
In some cases, a short, small proportioned, female is not within these parameters and this can prove a hard barrier to overcome for both the student and the teacher. Therefore, college students should also be expected to make an effort in overcoming prejudices as they have just as large a part in paving the way for minorities in the sciences as those who already fill positions.
Panelists and student speakers included individuals from Bates College and Colby College. The conference ran from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., was followed by a concluding dinner at 6:00 p.m., and was organized by Derrick Duplessy '02, Co-President of the African American Society on campus.