Climate Committee

#STRIKE4BLACKLIVES

The Princeton Astrophysical Sciences department endorses the Wednesday, June 10, 2020 #STRIKE4BLACKLIVES action, during which many of our department members will spend the day thinking and learning about systemic racism and our role in enacting change within academia. We support the idea that the non-Black majority of our department must take responsibility and action to effect necessary reform. 

It is tragic that this discussion was sparked only by a recent spate of violence against Black people, but it is a fact that Black people and People of Color are disproportionately targeted by police, incarcerated, and discriminated against.  This discrimination persists not just outside of academia but also within.

As much as we may aspire toward a world and nation in which, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., people “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” we do not presently inhabit such a world and to pretend otherwise denies the lived reality of Black Americans and impedes progress. As such, we affirm that Black Lives Matter.

What does this have to do with us as a community? Unfortunately, the impact of this systemic racism can be seen directly in our own department, where People of Color are vastly under-represented relative to demographics in our country. Nationally, trends of under-representation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the physical sciences are getting more severe.  As a community of educators, we are failing in our basic mission when specific segments of society are dramatically under-represented, specifically Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

As a community of researchers, we are failing in our basic mission if we do not recruit and actively support these talented people. We cannot move forward until all of us in the department, particularly those in positions of power and authority -- the vast majority of whom are white -- confront these facts. We must put sustained energy and time into becoming the inclusive, thriving, and thus truly excellent place that we aspire to be.


Department Climate Committee for Equity and Inclusion

The following are members of the current Department Climate Committee for Equity and Inclusion, composed of students, post-docs, staff, and faculty:

Jo Dunkley (chair, faculty)
Roohi Dalal, Goni Halevi (grad students)
Camille Liotine, Emma Louden, Juliana Pulsinelli (undergrads)
Polly Strauss (staff)
Sean Johnson, Ahmad Nehmer, Evan Schneider (post-docs)

You can contact us on astro-climate@princeton.edu,or reach us individually. The group email goes to all committee members.

Department Climate Surveys

We ran our first department climate survey in Fall 2018 and produced a department-internal report in Spring 2019. This was discussed in town halls among cohorts in the department. Discussion and resulting actions are still underway; a summary report will follow.  We plan to repeat these surveys every few years.

Departmental Actions

We are committed to increasing the inclusivity of our department and have taken the following steps to do so:

  • a pre-doctoral fellowship, which provides an extra year of preparation for promising graduate students from historically underrepresented backgrounds
  • our Undergraduate Summer Research Program (USRP), for which applications outside Princeton are made through the National Astronomy Consortium (NAC)
  • having a regular  presence at annual meetings of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP), the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and APS Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP)
  • promoting a family-friendly work environment; our weekly colloquium is at 11 AM and no regular talk series runs after 4 PM
  • regular post-doc lunches to allow open  discussion and to encourage communication
  • supporting the activities of the Undergraduate and Graduate Women in Physics (WiP) groups
  • adapting ‘morning coffee’ arXiv discussions to diversify participation and make them more welcoming for junior researchers

Links to university and other resources

Princeton Women in Physics - https://wip.princeton.edu/
Princeton Undergraduate Women in Physics - https://phy.princeton.edu/department/women-physics 
Princeton Graduate School Access, Diversity and Inclusion Team - https://gradschool.princeton.edu/diversity
Student Affinity Groups - https://gradschool.princeton.edu/diversity/student-resources/student-affinity-groups
University Centers and Offices - https://gradschool.princeton.edu/diversity/student-resources/university-centers-and-offices
Astronomy and Astrophysics outlist  - https://astro-outlist.github.io 
Princeton University Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Initiative - https://gradschool.princeton.edu/diversity/pre-doctoral-fellowship-initiative