Open Letter: Commitment to Inclusion in Physics

To the Arts & Sciences Community:

Academic freedom of expression is an essential safeguard of intellectual inquiry, and our campus will always promote the open exchange of ideas. A recent series of editorials and exchanges in Student Life regarding the lack of women in our physics department serve to remind us how differing points of view can both shed light and generate heat. We feel it is essential to take this opportunity to point out that the views expressed by the faculty contributor in no way reflect the longstanding principles that define our academic community.

This is a moment to restate our firm commitment to ensuring that our community is one where everyone feels valued and respected. We are dedicated to providing the best education possible and to preparing our students to make lasting contributions in an increasingly diverse global community. Specifically, with regard to the physics department, we are firmly committed to the following principles and goals:

  • To increase our recruitment of students, staff and faculty from all populations currently underrepresented in physics
  • To foster an inclusive community of learning in physics so that all students and faculty have the chance to flourish and devote themselves to the pursuit of this important discipline
  • To support the free exchange of ideas in the classroom and laboratory, creating a positive environment for the pursuit of new knowledge and discoveries
  • To provide a safe place for anyone in the department—student, staff or faculty—to report any type of discriminatory behavior
  • To recognize that the department’s tenure-track faculty has unacceptably low gender and racial diversity, and to embrace the challenge before us and strive to improve upon the status quo

Fostering a culture of inclusion benefits all of us, whether on campus or in society at large. We do not accept the premise that certain groups are less capable than others. We strive for academic excellence, rigor and open inquiry. We want all students to know that while they will encounter a range of opinions in their time on campus, we will always uphold our basic values when it comes to creating an engaging learning environment for all of our students.

The physics department is working closely with a number of eminent advisors from across campus, from the Provost’s Office to Human Resources, to implement the best strategies that will lead to real improvements to department climate and diversity. Across all of Arts & Sciences, our goal is to create and maintain inclusive environments that benefit everyone in our academic community.


Mark Alford
Chair of Physics

Jennifer R. Smith
Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences
Professor in Earth and Planetary Sciences

Barbara A. Schaal
Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences
Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor in Biology