The purported goal of The Daily Pennsylvanian article “Black Ph.D.s face disparate treatment in the sciences” was to discuss disproportional funding trends facing underrepresented minorities in science. The article attempts to describe our stance, as black members within the Penn community, on the disparities facing URM in science. As two black scientists who are extremely proud of our Penn education, training as biomedical researchers, and continued support from faculty at our institution, we were blindsided and disheartened by the misrepresentation and diminished depiction of our opinions within the published article. Specific data discussed during our interviews about the NIH’s commitment to diversity inclusion were omitted, and what followed were unsubstantiated statements that were often taken out of context. The DP has graciously welcomed our request to clarify our position and statements that we believe were misrepresented.
The article overall describes an unfair and hostile environment for blacks in science. We were quoted as using words such as “affirmative action” and “constant humiliation,” which, in addition to others, were incorrectly attributed to us. Moreover, false equivalencies were made between events in Ferguson and life for blacks in academia. Additionally, the views of some black professors in the social sciences were conflated with that of black professors in the life sciences. The article makes unsubstantiated assertions, principally because only two black scientists were interviewed, neglecting to cite data from the plethora of available literature on the subject. Lastly, the tone of the article was that of anger and resentment, which does not resonate with us, having experienced nothing but warmth and support in our relatively short time in academia.
In conclusion, while we are not oblivious to the challenges that URM groups — women, blacks, Latinos and members of the LGBT community — may encounter in the sciences, distorted articles made to be provocative do not lead to progress, but rather drive further wedges into the multicultural fabric of academic science.
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