Become a part of a Movement for Racial Justice in Mathematics
With the increasing, and necessary, attention to racial justice, many leaders throughout the mathematics community are putting time, thought, and effort into making their departments, organizations, and institutions more equitable – especially for Black, Latinx and Indigenous people.
You can’t change what you don’t see.
In the summer of 2020, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, a small group of mathematicians, led by the PI, brainstormed ways to move from just talking about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, to finding ways to actually make change. The plan they hatched was grounded in a theory of change that included two foundational principles:
- Departmental chairs (and other leaders) hold the key to making change in higher education.
- Many policies, procedures, and traditions that uphold the (racist) status quo are invisible to those who benefited from them, including many departmental leaders.
Here a couple of changes that were instituted by participants
- Adjusted the registration policy to narrow opportunity gaps between white and Black students.
- Creating a protocol and rubric that explicitly values DEI contributions of potential hires.
Through grass-roots organizing, the group assembled over 130 department chairs and leaders to engage in weekly discussions. This work was generously supported by the American Institute of Mathematics.
Interested in the 2022 Reboot?
Registration is now open for the Summer 2022 Reboot. Dates are still being finalized.
Summer 2022 Reboot
Departmental leaders, including chairs and directors of graduate & undergraduate studies, as well as leaders of national mathematics organizations (e.g. leaders of membership organizations) are eligible to participate.
Participants will be grouped into discussion of about 10, with each group led by an experienced facilitator. Groups will meet weekly throughout the summer.
Participants will be given a menu of readings about the major racial considerations in the potential areas of investigation during the workshop. For example, readings about the impacts of race in mentoring and advising, admissions, and the other areas will be provided in order to prime the pump.
The facilitators will lead groups based on interest in the following structural foci:
Mentoring and Advising
Mentoring and Advising have always been a key component for student success in mathematics departments. This is especially true for people of color, where racial concerns of microaggressions in addition to other components can create barriers to success. We will examine the ways in which departments can make their advising and mentoring more accessible for students of color.
What are the ways in which departments and universities decide who gets admitted? What are the hidden, accepted, and potentially racist structures that can be modified so that more people can be viewed as viable in departments? Relatedly, what are the conversations, discussions, and adjustments that must be made in the culture of a department that will align with these changes? We will do an admissions criteria audit by having department heads outline clearly their admissions process and criteria to gain clarity about whether they are unintentionally barring marginalized groups from attending.
Undergraduate Departmental Policies
How do departments create, maintain, and enforce their undergraduate policies? Who do these policies draw students into the department or keep students out? Participants will identify policies involving (for example: placement policies, grading policies) and evaluate them with a “racist or antiracist?” lens. Participants will create new policies to replace those that disadvantage students of color and lead to overrepresentation of white students. Participants will also outline the resources they need to make these new policies workable and develop a proposal to present to their institution.
Faculty-facing Departmental Policies
What is the composition of the participant’s department? Who is overrepresented and who is underrepresented? Participants will examine policies for tenure and promotion with an emphasis on eliminating “one-size-fits-all” policies to reward otherwise invisible service labor, innovative pedagogies, and curricular design. Participants will also develop strategies for bringing reluctant colleagues on board.
Talking about race is difficult. Courageous Conversations about Race provides a clear framework and protocols in which to talk about race. These readings will provide clear definitions for common understanding and various illuminating exercises that will prime participants to have the conversations. Participants will use the protocols to answer pre-workshop discussion questions in order to become accustomed to speaking about race.
To support their progress, participants will have weekly reading assignments from From Equity Talk to Equity Walk, by McNair, Malcom-Piqueux and Bensimon, as well as reflection questions to think about prior to the meetings. Participants will be called on to reflect on their practices and grapple with making changes that range from easy and comfortable to difficult and outside their comfort zone. They will be asked to make short-, medium-, and long-term plans to enact change within their contexts.
Potential Workshop Avenues of Change
Participants will be asked to select an Avenue of Change; this is an explicit goal that will bring about change in an institution or department, to which they will be held accountable to make a reality in the months after the workshop.
Here are a list of some possible Avenues of Change:
- Researching, refining and adjusting a draft Mentor - Mentee Contract in Mathematics Departments.
- Identifying 3 to 4 elements of their Graduate Admissions that are ripe for change.
- Crafting wording and documentation as to the necessity of change for those elements to be presented to constituencies
- Research, modify and start the creation of a Racial Climate Survey for their institution.
- Examine their placement practices, research other placement practices and find 3 core areas of possible change to investigate.
Post Workshop Activities
- Continuing to work and make progress in their Avenues of Change.
- Continuing their education through readings.
- Reporting out in some way to the Department Chair community on MAA Connect, or to the general mathematics community about their work and process to be a change agent for racial equity.