Campus Reform | NSF awards Bucknell almost $300k to 'uncover systemic inequities'

NSF awards Bucknell almost $300k to 'uncover systemic inequities'

Bucknell scholars will use the funds to research 'issues facing women and underrepresented minority (URM) faculty that are unique to STEM disciplines.'

The Pennsylvania university launched a series of diversity initiatives last year in the wake of the George Floyd murder.

The National Science Foundation gave Bucknell University $271,594 to “uncover systemic inequities” in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields (STEM).

"This project will bring significant insights into issues facing women and underrepresented minority (URM) faculty that are unique to STEM disciplines and in a primarily undergraduate institution that strives to enhance diversity in students, faculty and staff," the project abstract states. 

The scholars leading "Self-Assessment of Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Equity in STEM Faculty at Bucknell" intend to use this study to complement existing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) plan at their university. 

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Like many universities, Bucknell launched a DEI strategy last year in response to last year’s massive racial justice protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. In Bucknell’s ensuing press release, the university acknowledged the anger that many students and alumni showed towards the campus over their racial grievances. 

They promised to take a “deeper look” at how they could make “meaningful change." Bucknell promised to address “equity” and “inclusion”

Bucknell expanded their bureaucracy with new positions designated with addressing race and diversity issues. The President’s senior team added the Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in an advisory role. 

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The school then implemented required diversity training for their faculty including unconscious bias training, with a specific focus on targeting new employees during the on-boarding process. 

This 2021 NSF-funded project appears as a continuation of those efforts in higher education.

As the abstract states, "The outcomes of the self-study will enable the institution to improve strategies to support and retain more women and underrepresented minorities in all disciplines. The implementation of these strategies will also provide generalizable practices to liberal arts institutions."

Studies of diversity initiatives show that they are usually ineffective at their stated goals and often backfire. As Harvard Business Review reports, “while people are easily taught to respond correctly to a questionnaire about bias, they soon forget the right answers. 

"The positive effects of diversity training rarely last beyond a day or two, and a number of studies suggest that it can activate bias or spark a backlash," the article reads. 

Campus Reform reached out to Bucknell University for comment, but they declined.