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Student op-ed: STEM departments need to be ‘less white and male’

University of Washington student is but the latest undergraduate to put PC “studies” terminology to paper, in this case to demand “less white and male” college STEM departments.

Titled “Decolonizing STEM departments” in The Daily, Menchavez’s piece laments how his (white) environmental studies professor offered up a mere single lecture about how climate change affects “communities of color.”

The op-ed includes an editor’s note which states

Living in today’s world as a queer person of color has made it clear that spaces are dominated by and fundamentally for white folks. In an effort to reclaim power and uplift marginalized communities, this column acts as a step to holding institutions of power like the UW accountable.

As a “queer person of color who has been in spaces where [his] identities have marginalized [him] and hindered [his] ability to excel on campus,” Menchavez goes back over a year to gripe about UW computer science professor Stuart Reges’ “sexist” claim that gender differences are behind the STEM demographic disparity.

Reges’ view is a “perfect example,” Menchavez claims, of STEM departments failing to “properly educate” students about matters of diversity and identity.

Indeed, as a result of Reges’ views, UW officials agreed to institute “intersectional diversity and sexual harassment training” to academic student employees and their supervisors.

From the op-ed:

Since there is a lack of diversity within professional STEM fields, it’s important that institutions of power like the UW create examples of what the field should look like. This starts with departments taking initiative.

“I am concerned that the [computer engineering] department may not be a representative of the diverse demographics of UW,” [UW senior Samantha] Shreeve said. “It’s a shame because the tech industry is already overwhelmingly Caucasian and male, and if the UW is feeding this industry the same demographic it is run by we are only perpetuating the issue and making absolutely no progress.”

Shreeve makes an important point in highlighting the university’s role in continuing the cycle of exclusion of marginalized communities in STEM. [UW junior Ethan] Dirks stresses the need for more marginalized communities in STEM and has high hopes for the departments.

Menchavez also quotes his peer Alanesia Vang, a UW biology student who is miffed that professors “fail to correctly address gender and sex”:

“Professors have many times used sex and gender interchangeably,” she says. “In the context of biology, professors need to be more aware of this difference.”

Vang says she “rarely gets to see” faculty who “resemble her identity” … which makes it tough, she claims, since students of color already face an “assumption of failure.”

Read the piece.

MORE: UW prof: Computer science school is misrepresenting my article

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.