Wednesday, June 10, 2020


This blog post is not to signal anything. I am putting this here so I can remind myself.

The call went out a week ago for a strike of higher education. I went on strike in grad school once and I know it did not impress The Powers That Be.

But this strike is smart: a commitment to read and educate ourselves and to commit to improved practices in the future. And we can commit a Day to plan and take action.

The initiative is by Dr. Brian Nord, a very respected physicist and machine learning expert and Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a cosmologist and long-time voice on social justice matters in STEM.

see the NYT article about it here:

And I am glad to see some of my colleagues from UoL on there. As a University, it certainly has committed visibly towards justice. So this is for myself and the Physics Department. How can I help clean up my corner?

I am starting here:

some more reading I've been doing today:

And Dr. Tana Joseph has a video talking about decolonization in SA;

There are some clear actions that I can take. Starting off: the Louisville Bail fund.

Protests continue here in Louisville for Breonna Taylor and David McAtee and the Bail system is one more element of a twisted system. Put some money where my opinions are.

2.4 years to go before I can...but who's counting?

Back to UoL Physics. Louisville is 15% black and 5% Hispanic. These numbers are not reflected in the department. We do not have representation of these groups in the faculty and we are unlikely to get any with hiring freezes and increased reliance on adjuncts. I am not in a position to do anything about that right now but I'll see if Dr Brown who is a Dean and a co-signature on the strike, has any thoughts.


Goal: get a representative number of black and hispanic students in physics and astronomy and make sure they feel valued and part of it.

- structural racism in almost any facet of society
- loss of students from high school to Uni
- Perceived lower preparation for Uni Physics levels.
- lower participation of BIPOC in Physics.

The lack of students that major in physics at UoL due to the last two point seems closest to home (and most directly my responsibility). So that is a place to start.

- SPS chapter, full of active and enthusiastic students. Small but sociable.
- The Louisville Astronomical Society. Both can help me organize public events. Trick will be to make sure to include all in the advertisements.
- The Bullitt Lecture. I am the organizer. Look for a more diverse lineup of speakers. Advertise to broader community.
- Planetarium. Lovely space for outreach. Costs money though. Knowledgeable people and a mobile planetarium as well.
- UoL community partnership with West Louisville
- Absolutely no money for this whatsoever. Add this to grant applications.

I'm already involved with science classes at one school. Easy, the kids go there. that is the kind of low-hanging fruit I will gladly keep doing. Add some inclusive element to activities I or the University do anyway. New initiatives seem to be discouraged.

Stuff I can do:

Low bar:
- organize with SPS events to include everyone on campus. Make sure that these are open and advertised to all. Go with SPS to African Studies department? And I mean sit in and listen.
- LAS events on campus.
- Student research opportunities (paid). Make sure I add at least one a year to every grant. Reorganize this as an advertised group project?

Mid-height bar:
- Organize Planetarium shows for schools in West Louisville. This proved surprisingly tricky with just the one school. Something to explore with the Planetarium people and the community engagement project. See if PTA can fundraise for this. The mobile planetarium is cheaper (525$ per school or $7 pr student for main planetarium plus bussing.)
- engage with West Louisville Community partnership. Seems not much has happened since 2017, the year I got here.
- Fix up the dome on top of the building for open nights. On-campus is much more accessible for everyone.
- Spanish language Planetarium shows. I mean surely...nope.
- A Bullitt Lecture Speaker that isn't a Senior White Dude. Goals for 2021/22 I'm afraid (this year's has to be cancelled).

High bar:
- explore again about making UoL a Bridge Program. When I asked earlier it was promptly shut down but this is worth exploring and pushing for. There are programs at Ohio State, Indiana and Vanderbilt.
- Push for BIPOC faculty. volunteer for the next search committee? >>18mo? I mean we are two professors short in our department.
- Summer camp. Can the university support such a program? As part of a undergraduate Bridge program?

I'll set an alarm to alert me in November (after Fall semester which promising to be full of distractions) and check if I made any progress.

No comments:

Post a Comment