The faculty and staff of the Carleton Department of Physics and Astronomy strive to foster an inclusive learning and working environment by providing equitable access to resources so that a diverse population of students, faculty, and staff can thrive.
Given the history of unequal access and structural inequities in physics and astronomy that has homogenized our field, we recognize the need for a cultural shift to achieve these goals. In accordance with both the Carleton College Statement on Diversity and the American Physical Society’s Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity Alliance (APS-IDEA), we expect all members of the physics community at Carleton to abide by the principles of inclusion, diversity, and equity (IDE) as outlined in the following statement authored by faculty, staff, and student members of the IDEA team.
Inclusion is the recognition and empowerment of all individuals and groups. This principle goes beyond simply acknowledging individual differences, which is a necessary but insufficient condition for achieving inclusion. Rather, inclusion values and welcomes these differences and the unique perspectives they bring, especially those of traditionally underrepresented voices. An inclusive environment is one in which all feel welcome, supported, and respected.
Diversity refers to groups composed of individuals holding differing identities. These identities may be informed (non-exclusively) by race, ethnicity, culture, political and social worldview, religious and spiritual belief, language, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, learning and physical ability, age, and socioeconomic status. Diversity is not a quality inherent to any one person but is instead an emergent property of a group.
Equity is the principle that all have access to the resources and support needed to enable their success. In contrast to equality, in which all receive the same help and benefits, equity acknowledges individual disadvantages and privileges in order to provide equivalent opportunity.
The principles of IDE are foundational to our department not only for their own merits, but also for their vital importance to academic excellence:
- Inclusive environments enable a shared sense of belonging among individuals, stemming from a communal decision making process in which all viewpoints are considered. Inclusion facilitates collaboration without which knowledge stagnates and the field lies dormant.
- Diversity of perspective enables intellectual, personal, and societal growth by providing a fertile substrate for new ideas.
- Equity of opportunity is paramount to maintaining the diverse body of physicists and astronomers we seek, as structural inequities harm marginalized populations. These inequities create a feedback loop that inhibits diversification of the field.
When an academic environment embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion, individuals of all backgrounds can more easily flourish, and community is strengthened. As a physics and astronomy department within a liberal arts college, we are well-positioned to approach our discipline as a human endeavor which is both influenced by and contributes to society as a whole. We acknowledge that mistakes will be made; by fostering an inclusive environment, we hope to learn and grow from those mistakes both scientifically and as a community. Drawing from a diverse population increases awareness of pressing societal issues which physics and astronomy may be equipped to solve, resulting in a more equitable world.
We identify the following long term IDE goals for the department:
- Fostering a welcoming culture within the department
- Eliminating the perceived exclusivity of the fields of physics and astronomy to promote a sense of belonging for everyone in the department
- Rendering diversity, equity, and inclusion as fundamental principles informing all departmental activities (including classes, events, etc.)
- Identifying what makes the department feel less inclusive with the aim of ongoing positive change and growth
We recognize that true cultural change requires active participation from all members of the community. In order to promote such change in our department, cohorts of students, faculty, and staff have formed various groups and departmental initiatives to address specific issues and facilitate communication. These include:
- Physicists from Underrepresented Genders (PUGs)
- The APS-IDEA network team
- Physics Table (students, staff, and faculty have lunch together on a weekly basis)
- Student Departmental Advisors
- Departmental Curriculum Committee
- Curricular Initiatives
- Anti-racism training for faculty and staff
- Physics and Astronomy and Chemistry student worker training
- Providing resources for individual consideration and reflection
Leading By Example
As members of the IDEA Team, we seek to lead by example in making the department more inclusive, diverse, and equitable, while also responding to failures on our own part to uphold this mission. It is inevitable that we will make mistakes; how we choose to respond to them is what will harm or strengthen our departmental community. We thus advocate for a restorative, rather than punitive response to conflict, operating under the presumption of good faith by all involved, understanding that harmful actions do not imply harmful actors.
Creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive department is a continuous process that requires sustained work and reflection. In this spirit, we consider this to be a living statement; it can and will change when our goals evolve and mature as the department, College, larger physics and astronomy community, and society shape our understanding of these issues. We thus commit to a critical process of amending or reaffirming this document annually and as deemed necessary.