The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) stands in solidarity as the world cries out against the systemic racism and inequality experienced by the Black community. We have been listening, learning, and consulting with colleagues, including Sekile Nzinga, interim chief diversity officer and associate provost of diversity and inclusion and director of the Women’s Center, with whom we remain in dialogue. As Northwestern advances its own commitments to social justice, we in OUR state our commitments to engaging more fully in anti-racist practices and to becoming better community partners and advocates both now and for the long term through our engagement with undergraduate researchers across campus.
As a unit, the OUR recognizes that advancing an anti-racist agenda begins with a necessary examination of our daily work. Research creates knowledge that can transform and improve lives, but we must also acknowledge that there is a history of research and research practices that contributed directly to the systemic racism and inequalities we continue to fight today. From the U.S. Public Health Services’ infamous Tuskegee Study and Guatemala experiments that began in the 1930s and 1940s to the many biomedical discoveries in the past six decades that would not have been possible without Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken without her consent, bias and racism have and do show up in research. We do not aim to present an exhaustive list here, but rather to acknowledge that there are unfortunately far more examples than we could share in this one message. Today, the intersections among race, racism, bias, and research also surface in recent discussions about COVID-19, including in concerns about colonialist-mentalities during COVID-19 vaccine trials in Africa. Bias also shows up in research in data collection, data analysis, and publication opportunities. Systemic racism, bias, and microaggression diminish the work of many involved in research and perpetuate the inequities found in research environments. There are, of course, already people doing innovative work that is applied, community engaged, and social justice oriented, including many scholars at Northwestern, to counteract these practices. OUR will strive to build resources to link undergraduate student researchers more intentionally in support of this important work.
- We pledge to work with leading scholars on our campuses to support their work through undergraduate involvement, including funding from OUR grant programs. Having undergraduate researchers learn from and engage with historic and persistent forms of erasure with diverse scholars doing innovative scholarship within the research/academic context is essential.
- We pledge to create new online, freely-available resources to support first-generation, lower income, undocumented/DACA students, and/or minoritized students who want to get involved in research. These resources also will help support the development of more informed and engaged mentoring by faculty. This work will be achieved with funding from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.
- We pledge to establish a new grant program focused on developing a community of undergraduate research scholars from first-generation, lower income, undocumented/DACA students, and/or minoritized communities on campus. The program will provide funding to students conducting research and/or creative projects over an extended period of time and will also include extensive personal and professional development workshops. This work will be achieved with funding from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.
- We pledge to continue OUR’s work with Northwestern’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) to ensure that ethical research practices are robustly followed in all aspects of student research, including the Principles of Ethical Practice in Community-Engaged Learning, Research, and Service developed in partnership with the Buffett Institute for Global Affairs. OUR will also continue to collaborate with campus units, including Campus Inclusion and Community and Student Enrichment Services.
- We pledge to continue to collaborate with the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR) to support the development and funding of student research projects. Northwestern campus sits on the traditional homelands of the people of the Council of Three Fires, the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa as well as the Menominee, Miami and Ho-Chunk nations, and it is our responsibility as an academic institution—and as the Office of Undergraduate Research—to help foster the dissemination of existing scholarship and the development of further Native and Indigenous research.
- We pledge to work with current Northwestern programs, including Chicago Field Studies, the Center for Civic Engagement, the SESP Civic Engagement Certificate to help further facilitate the collaboration of undergraduates and community groups through OUR’s existing grant funding programs.
- We pledge to continue to collaborate with Northwestern’s Institutional Research Office to obtain and analyze OUR application and award rate data for first generation, low income, and/or minoritized students. We pledge to share the results publicly and use them towards our goal of at minimum having these groups apply at levels commensurate to their group size and with success rates at minimum equal to the overall success rate of the program.
- We pledge to work as a staff to continue our ongoing education around anti-racist practices in order to inform our outreach to and advising for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students to more effectively support them and their research projects. We will devote staff time to these efforts.
- We pledge to continue our work with groups within the Evanston area that support these communities, and we pledge to promote to our students the work of local community groups through posting their events in our undergraduate e-newsletter
- We pledge to support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and women owned businesses in Evanston whenever possible.
We realize that these pledges are preliminary steps, but they speak to our stated commitment to engage more fully in issues regarding anti-racist practices in general and within the worlds of research and Evanston in particular.
Written and signed by the staff of the Office of Undergraduate Research,
Peter Civetta, Director
Megan Wood, Associate Director
Tori Saxum, Administrator
Jennah Thompson-Vasquez, Outreach Coordinator
Evangeline Su, Research Workshop Coordinator