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Talking about race in STEM

The Queen's Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science held a panel discussion on anti-Black racism as part of #ShutDownSTEM day.

Photo of the panel participating in the Let's Talk Race forum on Zoom.
The Let's Talk about Race in STEM panel brought together students and administrators from the Queen's Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

With the heightened focus on the issue of anti-Black racism throughout society, a movement took off for academics in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to set aside their usual work for one day to address racism instead. The movement originated in the United States and spread widely on social media with the hashtags #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia. It called for faculty and students in STEM around the globe to use Wednesday, June 10 to have discussions about anti-Black racism and equity in their departments, faculties, labs, and classrooms.

Recognizing the necessity of having open conversations about anti-Black racism, the Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAS) held a panel discussion on the day called Let’s Talk about Race in STEM. The panel consisted of Black students in FEAS, FEAS students from other racialized groups, and FEAS and Queen’s administrators. Bringing together faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members, nearly 300 people attended the conversation on Zoom.

“I’ve been hearing from many staff, faculty, and students in engineering who are feeling overwhelmed by this momentous period we’re living through. We need to examine racist issues in our community, and find out what we can do about them. We felt it was important to participate in Shut Down STEM today, but we also know it’s just one of many steps to continue moving in a direction of change,” says Kevin Deluzio, Dean of FEAS, during the event.

“This is a complex problem that needs action, and we’re in it for the long haul,” he added during his closing remarks. 

Responding to questions from the community, the FEAS student panelists spoke about a variety of important aspects of racism in STEM.  For example, a group of current FEAS students shared their experiences with racism and ideas they have for promoting a more diverse and equitable campus. And Amir Fam, Associate Dean, Research in FEAS, addressed some ways in which researchers can confront anti-racism and promote inclusivity in their work.

“The turnout was impressive and it was encouraging to see the dean so willing to listen to our shared experiences. It is important to normalize such discussions which were was once ‘too uncomfortable’, as the Queen’s community is not excluded from the issue of systemic racism, and I hope that the faculty can retain this momentum to turn these conversations into actions," says Geneviève Norris-Roozmon, one of the FEAS student panelists for the event.

Stephanie Simpson, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion) was also on hand during the conversation. She discussed some of the steps that Queen’s is taking at an institutional level to fight against anti-Black racism. And Simpson noted that while a lot of progress has been made on campus there is still much work to be done.

Leading up to the panel discussion, Dean Deluzio sent a message to all students, staff, and faculty in FEAS about how to be an advocate for standing up to anti-Black racism in STEM. He suggested that all members of the FEAS community take steps to self-educate, communicate, and act. And he directed them to resources to help guide them.

“We have much to do. But I believe that our Engineering community is ready and willing to embrace this call for change. Our future depends on a more equitable society. Let’s be better,” Dean Deluzio wrote at the conclusion of his message.

Brenda Brouwer, Dean (Interim) of the Smith School of Business, sent a similar message to the Smith community, in which she announced that the school will be holding discussion forums on racism in the coming weeks.

“We must actively engage our community in eliminating racism in all its forms and we must also recognize the pain that many are experiencing. I ask that everyone take the time to reflect on these matters and consider our own role and responsibility in promoting a culture of inclusion, dignity and respect,” Dean Brouwer wrote.

For students seeking help in coping with current events, student support counsellors are available, as well as Empower Me and Good2Talk, which can provide 24/7 access to a counsellor. Staff and faculty may access support through our Employee and Family Assistance (EFAP) program. Our Human Rights and Equity Office is also available to consult with any member of our university community.