Following a series of direct actions by student activists and their faculty and staff allies, a team of faculty and researchers in Biology engage in a learning series about the department’s history with the 20th century eugenics movement. The team’s dialogue and self-study reveal troubling and violent research agendas in the department’s past that directly contributed to scientific racism and ultimately produced harmful and inaccurate knowledge that drives contemporary white supremacist discourses.

In consultation with students and other institutional stakeholders, the team of faculty and researchers agrees to pursue a formal a restorative truth and reconciliation process to examine the organization’s history of research related to the eugenics movement. The process includes educational initiatives to help raise the community’s consciousness and problematize the institution’s history. The program also invests in research to fight scientific racism. Lastly, the team leads the design and declaration of unit-level values and specified commitment to anti-racism.

Key Take-Aways: 
  • The Issue: The biology department has a direct connection to the violent 20th century history of the eugenics movement. Students, faculty and staff have called for an acknowledgement and confrontation of this history.
  • The Deliberation: Teaching and research faculty determine that a formal truth and reconciliation process is necessary to confront the department’s history of eugenics and scientific racism.
  • The Growth: The department’s direct engagement with the issues brought forth by students, faculty and staff results in community engagement with the problematic history and also produces shared learning, new streams of inquiry and renewed commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

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