New course will teach UNH students about 'racism in science'

Academics at the University of New Hampshire are teaching a new course about anti-racism in STEM.

One of the instructors suggests that science is not necessarily “culturally neutral.” Another says that White people need to understand the global history of “whiteness.”

Declaring that science is not necessarily “culturally neutral,” academics at the University of New Hampshire are offering a new course about anti-racism in STEM.

Natural resources professor Serita Frey and graduate student Emily Whalen are teaching “Anti-Racism in Science: Promoting an Inclusive and Equitable STEM Community” in the spring 2021 semester.

The course — a graduate “Hot Topics” seminar — will detail the history of racism in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. According to the university’s course database, the class will be open to 100 students.

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“Racism in science is like racism in all other aspects of our society. As we say in the course syllabus, science is often viewed as ‘culturally neutral,’ and scientific information is often presented as objective and unbiased,” explained Frey in an interview with UNH Today. “However, science, like every other human endeavor is subject to the biases of its practitioners.”

Frey — who chairs the College of Life Science and Agriculture’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee — added that “all of us in the U.S. were raised with a 400-year history of racism and thus we all hold biases, implicit or otherwise.” As a result, it is difficult for “Black, indigenous people and people of color (BIPOC) to enter and fully participate in STEM disciplines.”

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“As white people we need to study and understand the history of white people in the U.S. and globally in constructing ‘whiteness’ and in constructing the political system of race,” Whalen said. “We need to continually engage in a process of unlearning and learning — what are BIPOC activists and experts saying needs to be done? What actions can we take to support this anti-racist work? BIPOC folks, especially Black women, have been telling us what work needs to be done for a long time. We need to listen and find ways to put it into action.”

National Association of Scholars Director of Research David Randall noticed that the program “is a graduate seminar, probably intended mostly for people planning on becoming academics themselves.”

Randall told Campus Reform that because the program is “an interdisciplinary environmental policy-focused program,” its inherent value “was already low, and cannot be much further degraded by adding anti-racism to its sustainability dogmas.”

“This matters most as a pilot program — a course that will in time be made mandatory on the undergraduate level,” added Randall. “Such courses not only degrade the quality of higher education but also waste student tuition money as they divert university resources to the social justice activists employed in the professoriate, who are the only ones ‘qualified’ to teach this ideology.”

Campus Reform reached out to the University of New Hampshire and Frey for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft