To students, alumni, and friends of the Department of Science, Technology, and Society:

We are sure that many of you share our horror and shame that agents of our government charged with our protection still, in 2020, routinely use unwarranted violence against Black people, with tragic results, including the recent killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. We hope you share our guarded optimism that the broad-based public reaction in our streets signals a refusal to allow the status quo to continue.

As humanists and social scientists, we are acutely aware that these incidents cannot be simply blamed on bad police. Police brutality is but the most striking and outrageous form taken by systemic racial oppression in our society. The police must be reformed, but such reforms will do little unless we also do away with the conditions that create violent and racist policing. Those conditions are embedded in our institutions, particularly the power centers: systems of politics and justice, employment, housing, and yes, education. We place an uncomfortable but necessary burden on ourselves when we recognize the institutional nature of racism, since it implicates the very places within which we live and work.

It is with this understanding that we commit ourselves to work actively against injustice, within our department, at Virginia Tech, and in the broader society.

As educators, we need to be diligently anti-racist. That means working against the Academy’s role in reproducing white privilege. Schools and universities have used criteria for evaluating and rewarding students, faculty, and staff that privilege those who are already advantaged. It is easy and effortless to reproduce these practices unless we make a systematic, cognizant effort to change.

It is not enough to promote diversity. We must strive for equity and justice in our community by elevating the scholarship of our Black, Indigenous, and other non-White scholars. By listening to those who have historically been silenced, we can transform existing practices to align with the directives of anti-racist scholarship. All members of our community should expect the solidarity of their co-workers, colleagues, and teachers.  

As scholars — and as science, technology, and society scholars in particular — we have a powerful set of tools, and therefore an urgent responsibility, to analyze the ways that science and technologies, and the people and institutions who participate in the enterprise of science and technology, are complicit in producing and maintaining institutional oppression and systemic violence. We also commit to making research-informed contributions to public discussion in areas such as the technologies of policing and surveillance; biomedicine and health disparities; and the history of the concept of race itself, the scientific tool par excellence for naturalizing oppression.

We commit to not revert to our habitual accommodation with an intolerable reality after the current wave of protests and pandemic are no longer in the headlines. Times of uncertainty can induce anxiety, but they also present opportunities for positive change. Our hope is that all of the members of our community will bring the intensity of the current moment from the streets into our own activities. We pledge to use this moment as a catalyst for change.

Members of the STS Policy Committee, including Department Faculty and Graduate Student Representatives

Janet Abbate
Barbara Allen
Daniel Breslau
Panita Chatikavanij
Jim Collier
Gary Downey
Matthew Goodrum
Saul Halfon
Rebecca Hester
Ke Hu
Cheri Johnson
Philip Olson
Fabian Prieto-Nañez
Sonja Schmid
Ashley Shew
Lee Vinsel
Matt Wisnioski