College physics course requires 'Decolonization' project

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. 

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.”

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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.

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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.

Follow The Claremont Independent on Twitter: @CmontInd