Equity and Justice Statement
A Foundation of Equity & Justice
Much of our research into science, technology, and society reveals how concepts become institutionalized and come to be taken for granted. We recognize that the language of diversity and inclusion has laid foundations for achieving equity in academia over the last few decades, and we also hear the voices of marginalized groups who tell us that an invitation to the table is but the first step in a longer trajectory toward building equity. Here we adopt a foundation of equity and justice that involves: (1) reorienting access to resources, (2) building networks of support around members of disenfranchised and structurally vulnerable groups, and (3) practicing humility by stepping back and listening to those we invite into our offices, lecture halls, conference rooms, and intellectual communities. We seek to orient towards equity and justice rather than diversity because, as Angela Davis warns, a depreciated interpretation of diversity can mean creating “a difference that doesn’t make a difference.”
With this in mind, the Cornell University Department of Science & Technology Studies seeks to increase substantive diversity and accessibility that is grounded in equity and justice and that therefore permeates all aspects of our departmental culture, from our course offerings and pedagogies to our recruitment, hiring, and promotion practices to how we engage with one another as scholars and as people. We know that lists that seek to include inevitably produce their own exclusions; however, we also recognize that race, gender, sexuality, dis/ability, and class are categories that have historically shaped exclusion in STS and in academia more broadly and are therefore at the forefront of our efforts towards equity and justice. From our varied positions, we seek to proactively affirm all marginalized groups, standing together in solidarity against forms of bigotry and oppression. We are committed to confronting explicit and structural white supremacy, class supremacy, heteronormativity, ableism, and patriarchy through the active recruitment of faculty, graduate students, and staff from diverse backgrounds (racial, cultural, socioeconomic, gender, LGBTQ+, religious, etc.) and abilities, and through critical attention to forms of oppression and inequality in our research and teaching.
We also seek to build a warm and inviting community for all our members, present and future. We commit to work to lift each other up and celebrate each other’s successes and to fostering respectful and consensual communication. We will welcome constructive critique, encouraging all to feel they can safely speak across power differentials and have their ideas and expertise respected.
As a community, we have agreed to the following principles and commitments:
Allying for Indigenous Sovereignty
Along with our home institution, we acknowledge that we live and work on the traditional homelands of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' (the Cayuga Nation). The Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign Nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land. The Confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York state, and the United States of America. We acknowledge the painful history of Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' dispossession, and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' people, past and present, to these lands and waters. As a department community, we advocate for Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' sovereignty as well as respect for all indigenous treaties and land claims.
We are proud that Cornell now offers an official Cayuga language course and unequivocally chooses to recognize Cayuga Nation land claims and sovereignty, as indicated by its Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives. However, we also understand that work towards true equity and justice requires moving beyond recognition and into action. Our department remains open to suggestions that would assist us in our goal of supporting indigenous communities, indigenous scholars, and the Cayuga Nation more specifically.
Treating People With Compassion
We remain dedicated to maintaining a humane and community-oriented work environment, recognizing the need to sometimes go above and beyond to support and care for each other, and we encourage all department members to maintain work-life balance. We support our staff, undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, visitors, and faculty when life sometimes necessitates taking mental health or sick leave. We also support all colleagues who need to take parental or family leave to care for others. We are proud of our track record of stepping in to work when we may be needed and stepping back when we may need to take a break. While maintaining our professional boundaries, we advocate to the best of our abilities for the health and well-being of all who enter our department.
Valuing Students and Learning
A. Graduate Students:
We are committed to actively admitting and supporting graduate students from diverse backgrounds, dis/abilities, and countries of origin (see Section I). We welcome students who demonstrate a diverse array of research interests and perspectives. In order to support our students once they arrive, we facilitate access to institutional and departmental resources, including funding, research, and teaching opportunities, faculty mentoring, and advocacy, recognizing that students in vulnerable positions may need extra support. We also continue to actively support student initiatives outside of the classroom in order to bring awareness and action to issues critical to the overarching objective of building a more equitable university. We support equitable representation for graduate students within the department and the university.
B. International Students:
Our department is committed to expanding our awareness of the unique challenges facing international students (e.g., visa requirements, funding, and fears of deportation) and the ways in which faculty and staff may be able to help mitigate their impact on the academic progress and lived experiences of our students. We remain dedicated to achieving equitable access to resources (e.g., grant, fellowship, and employment opportunities), excellence in education, and mentorship for all of our international students.
C. Undergraduate Students & Curriculum:
We consider the incorporation of social justice issues into our curriculum to be a departmental imperative, and we seek to provide faculty and student instructors with support and resources toward this effort. This may be in the form of funding for training or conferences, the facilitation of professional networks, the provision of formal structures for the sharing of pedagogical tools and strategies, etc. We designed many of our foundational courses to move students towards deeper critical thinking about social systems, with overarching themes that interrogate structural oppression in its myriad forms. We also have created faculty positions to expand our course offerings in this regard.
Recruiting and Supporting Diverse Faculty
We are committed to improving hiring practices and faculty support to foster the career advancement of people from historically excluded and underrepresented groups. In this vein, we seek to actively recruit faculty from diverse backgrounds, dis/abilities, and countries of origin (see Section I), and who are engaged in research from a diverse array of perspectives. We are also aware of how aspects of the hiring process may inadvertently help or hinder these efforts. The Department of Science & Technology Studies has taken initial steps toward more equitable recruitment practices through the establishment of specific faculty positions intended to diversify our departmental perspective and research agenda. STS is a varied and vibrant field, and we aim to highlight this breadth by recognizing and advancing the contributions of feminist STS, the intersections between STS and disability studies, indigenous STS, global STS, postcolonial STS, and emerging approaches to decolonizing the field.
Real diversity brings with it immense resources, and we acknowledge that faculty from socially marginalized groups have unequal demands placed on them. For example, they are often called upon more frequently for institutional service, invisible advising, and emotional labor. Additionally, international faculty face issues with immigration and relocation, which can interfere with their research and teaching. As a department, we aim to recognize these unequally-shared demands when making decisions about raises, tenure, and promotion. We aim to make labor expectations clear while also incorporating into faculty and graduate student annual reports invitations to account for forms of invisible and additional labor.
We are also committed to proactively supporting our junior faculty in achieving tenure and supporting our non-tenure-track faculty in their professional pursuits.
Valuing Our Staff
We value our staff as indispensable to the essential functioning of our department as well as esteemed members of our community. We respect staff expertise, and their roles and responsibilities in the office. In particular, we work to practice sensitivity around their work schedules and time limitations, especially for those in part-time positions. We advocate for their promotion when new opportunities appear and support them however we can to achieve their own career goals.
Holding Ourselves Accountable
There is no one size fits all method of accountability for our aspirations here. One important first step, however, will be to hold periodic review and subsequent action of teaching, service, and advising labor distribution, with a goal of better distributing these forms of departmental work going forward and with the possibility of finding ways to provide material relief to those who have taken on more than their share in the meantime. Another step is to make equity and justice a regular part of our departmental retreats, with a goal of annually reassessing our priorities in this area and what steps we can take in the coming year to advance our goals. A third step is to clarify existing methods through which equity and justice issues can be raised within and beyond the department, and to strengthen department capacities to hear and respond to such issues in ways that account for power differentials and protects those who are structurally vulnerable. Our efforts to hold ourselves accountable will be geared towards positive change that allows all of us to thrive, and that affirms our aspiration to place equity and justice at the center of our intellectual and departmental work. As a department, all efforts to hold ourselves accountable will be collective ones that aspire to collaboration and consensus.
Welcoming Reflection and Change
This is a living document that is subject to change as we recalibrate to our successes and failures, and as new issues emerge or take on new urgencies. As individuals and as a department, we commit to an ongoing process of self-reflection, constructive critique, and learning.
This Document’s Story
Cornell University’s Science and Technology Studies Department staff, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty came together to create a living Equity and Justice statement that celebrates our commitments, acknowledges our efforts, and shows our continued dedication to self-reflection and change.
We are encouraged by the work of supporting programs and initiatives at Cornell, such as the Inter-Group Dialogue Project, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Diversity and International Students Committee, and other departments with whom we work closely, including Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (FGSS). We follow their examples by striving toward substantive difference-making, however incremental the impact may be.