College physics course requires 'Decolonization' project

  • Students enrolled in a Physics 101 course at Pomona College last semester were required to complete a "Decolonizing Physics" project by calling attention to issues like "implicit bias" and "microaggressions."
  • Both the instructor and the physics department have declined to comment, but multiple anonymous sources confirmed the project's existence to The Claremont Independent.

Students enrolled in a physics course at Pomona College were required to complete a project addressing issues such as “implicit bias” and “microaggressions.”

Last fall semester, students in Pomona College’s Foundations of Modern Physics (PHYS101 PO) class were required to complete a “Decolonizing Physics” project as a part of their physics coursework. 

"This semester, for Physics 101, in addition to learning about Quantum Mechanics, we are also learning and discussing implicit bias, microaggressions, and other similar topics."   

Taught by Professor Janice Hudgings, Foundations of Modern Physics is a mandatory course for all students majoring in physics or astronomy. The Pomona College course catalog describes the class as an “introduction to wave mechanics, spectra and structure of atoms, molecules and solids, nuclear physics, and particle physics.”

[RELATED: Pomona College adds social justice to statistics curriculum]

According to an email obtained by the Independent that was sent from a student asking for assistance on the project, students in Foundations of Modern Physics were “learning and discussing implicit bias, microaggressions, and other similar topics.” 

The email revealed that students are expected to “bring to light some of these issues to both the physics department and Pomona in general,” citing a student movement at Harvard University calling attention to racial microaggressions as an example of the work expected from students enrolled in the physics class.

The student explained that she had attempted her own rendition of the “#ITooAmHarvard” project with the catchphrase “#ITooAmSTEM,” and requested the stories of female students or students of color to discuss STEM-related social justice topics for women and persons of color.

The Pomona physics department ignored numerous and exhaustive inquiries, taking place over the course of nearly two months, from reporters at the Independent. Multiple anonymous sources, however, have confirmed the project’s existence.

This assignment comes on the heels of the integration of social justice issues into the Introduction to Statistics curriculum at Pomona College.

[RELATED: Profs: ‘White male privilege’ to blame for STEM gender gap]

The Independent made numerous attempts through email, phone, and in-person communication to contact the Pomona physics department, including physics and astronomy academic coordinator Natalie Hughes, and Hudgings herself—who acknowledged receipt of emails inquiring for more information—to obtain further details about the exact assignment prompt, the relation of microaggressions and decolonization to the introductory physics curriculum, class syllabus, and the history of the assignment of this project. 

Thus far, Hudgings and the department have refused to comment.

This article was originally published in The Claremont Independent, a conservative student newspaper affiliated with the Leadership Institute's Campus Leadership Program. Its articles are republished here with permission.

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The Claremont Independent | The Claremont Independent

The Claremont Independent is an independent journal of campus affairs and political thought serving the colleges of the Claremont Consortium. The magazine receives no funding from any of the colleges and is distributed free of charge on campus. All costs of production are covered by the generous support of private foundations and individuals. The Claremont Independent is dedicated to using journalism and reasoned discourse to advance its ongoing mission of Upholding Truth and Excellence at the Claremont Colleges. The Claremont Independent is affiliated with Campus Reform through the Leadership Institute's Campus Leadership Program. Its articles are republished on Campus Reform with permission from the paper. 

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