Department Responses to Feedback Questions

Feedback Portal Comment and Response

Comment: "I participated in the EIC meeting. I have to say that the meetings themselves are not run well to facilitate the number of people. The meetings have Prof. Huth, Hau and Anne etc at the top and one way communication between them and the participants. There was no dialogue back and forth -- just the dynamic of all-knowing professors at the top of a room and students asking questions. The power dynamic in this very meeting is what we are trying to dismantle!! How many more meetings are we going to have to propose that we hire more Black faculty members or make other generic suggestions? These are not bad suggestions but we are not making progress by having more meetings to discuss this. It seems priorities have been set but participation in things is not open. It seems a select group of people are involved in implementation/next steps and the purpose of the meetings is to report back. Why not make breakout rooms and start to dig beneath the surface and solicit specific suggestions on the prioritized topics? A 60 person open Zoom call is not effective. Break into teams of 5 with mixed participation and start to actually work out what an effective mentoring strategy would be. (And lets make sure this isn't 5 female faculty members taking on all the dept mentoring) Engage professors work along side students, not just 3 leaders at the top taking comments but not engaging along side. We have priorities. We don't need to sit around and ask general questions for 1 hour -- get people to work on those priorities. Also I was VERY concerned about Professor Kaxiras's slide about Black students. It seems that the department plan for Black students involves support groups for those students. I am not saying affinity groups etc aren't valuable. But the reason Black students need support is that the department is hostile to them, not that they are defective. A slide on the plan for Black students that only describes how we can help those students function better in a hostile environment, rather than how we engage non-BIPOC members of the community in making the environment less hostile, is extremely offensive. It is not the job of BIPOC students to adapt to a bad environment. Is the job of the rest of us to make that environment less bad in the first place. Sure some affinity groups are great in the meantime, but a plan for Black students should involve 100% of the department and describe what every single member of the department is doing."

Response: Thank you for providing feedback on the special Equity and Inclusion Committee (EIC) meeting held on July 9., 2020.  We appreciate your perspective.

It’s true. Facilitating large group conversations about any topic, but especially system racism is challenging.  We will continue to explore strategies for structuring these conversations more effectively, and appreciate your suggestions.

To clarify, the department plan for engaging and supporting Black/African American scholars will go beyond the development of “support groups.”  We’ve asked Benita Wolff, Equity and Inclusion Fellow, to comprehensively review the experiences of Black/African American scholars in the Department of Physics and provide recommendations for change based on qualitative and quantitative data and best practices in this domain.  As part of this review,  Benita will meet confidentially with Black/African American scholars (qualitative), and review the departmental climate survey data (quantitative) once the data is available.  It is not our goal to help Black students “function better in a hostile environment.”   Our goal is to acknowledge and address current shortcomings and make lasting structural change across the department.  We appreciate your interest and concern. Please message Benita directly at benita_wolff@fas.harvard.edu if you would like to learn more about the work underway.

Also, please stay tuned for how you can actively engage with projects or committees related to the strategic themes we discussed at the July 9 meeting.  More soon!

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Responses to Feedback Portal Submissions - presented and reviewed at EIC Meeting 07/10/2020

Comment: Please provide a link to this suggestion/feedback form on the department website for easy access           

Response: We have added a dropdown on our Department landing page: About--> Dept of Physics Feedback Portal

 

Concern presented regarding compensation for undergraduates in research assistant roles, with a request for review of such summer pay.

Response: As part of the "review and assess undergraduate programs, compensation for summer research roles will be reviewed.

 

Comment: Please address the inclusion of the GREs and making admissions more equitable      

Response: We have eliminated the use of the GRE in our admissions processes. Statement will be posted on our website. 

 

Comment expressed disappointment in the response to the EIC Community meeting – not enough concrete near term suggestions adopted.

Response: Great care was taken in developing more specific, concrete actions captured for today's (07/10/2020) presentation is providing a more in-depth look at the activities and programming underway