Higher Education

David Randall, Ph.D. | March 9, 2021

Woke biology: Politicization comes to the hard sciences

David Randall, Ph.D.

Regrettably, academia’s Cultural Revolution is no longer confined to places like the English and sociology departments. The woke cadres have also begun to assault the sciences, which previously seemed a bastion of sanity.

For example, numerous “scientists in Solidarity”—including several in Oklahoma higher education—are now telling us that defining gender based on genitalia and chromosomes is “inconsistent with science.”

Moreover, scientists nationwide, including some at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, have signed up for “anti-racism” by such means as a “#ShutDownSTEM” as part of a “Strike for Black Lives.” The University of Oklahoma’s Department of Biology actually endorsed and participated in “ShutDownSTEM.”

A number of academic departments have begun to plaster politicized statements onto their webpage. At the University of Oklahoma, the Department of Biology’s home page contains a “Solidarity Statement for Racial Justice.” The Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology similarly proclaims its Commitment to Equity and Diversity. The College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences likewise commits itself to the ritual support of diversity, inclusion, and equity, and the invocation of “systemic racism.”

Any such commitment is a promissory note for radical change to come. The OU Department of Biology adds that “We are currently working on a set of concrete actions to improve our department culture, accountability, and transparency, which will be approved and released prior to the fall semester 2020,” and directs eager revolutionaries to an appropriate administrative unit: “We urge those interested in taking action to please contact the department’s Diversity Inclusion and Equity Committee.” The Department still appears to be working on those “concrete actions” as of spring 2021, but they cannot be long delayed. The OU Department of Physics and Astronomy also has formed a Community and Inclusion Committee. These committees will give these commitments bite.

Many science departments have not posted Solidarity Statements for Racial Justice and the like. But they are captives of OU’s politicized central university administration. OU now imposes mandatory “diversity training” for all students, faculty, and staff—and that includes the science departments.

The radicalization shows up in job advertisements, too. For example, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry’s posting seeking an Assistant Professor of Inorganic Materials Chemistry notes that “The University of Oklahoma is committed to achieving a diverse, equitable, and inclusive university community.”

The Stephenson School of Biomedical Engineering states in a posting seeking an Assistant Professor of Immunoengineering that “We seek candidates who will contribute to fostering an inclusive culture in all aspects of faculty responsibility, including the classroom, the academic community, and their professional commitments.” This posting further adds that OU’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion “stems not only from compliance with federal and state equal opportunity laws but from a desire to ensure social justice and promote campus diversity.” A Stephenson School posting seeking an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering further tells applicants, “In the teaching and creative activity statements, please include specific examples pertaining to the promotion of the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion from previous professional activity and for future career plans.”

The Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability has also adopted the new nationwide tactics of the “cluster hire”—a way to hire several social-justice advocates at once, without worrying about normal teaching priorities. At OU, this practice will bring four tenure-track hires to work on Environmental Justice and Equity, Indigenous Geographies in the Americas, Geospatial Data Science (“to address issues of resilience and sustainability”), and Geographies of Health and Environmental Change. Cluster hires will transform the radicalization of Oklahoma’s science education from a trickle to a flood.

In sum, the radicalization that has rotted so much of American higher education is now beginning to degrade science education in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma needs proper science education, not only for the sake of academic freedom but also as the motor of a high-technology economy. The politicization of science education threatens Oklahoma’s liberty and prosperity alike.

David Randall, Ph.D.

David Randall is the research director of the National Association of Scholars. He earned a Ph.D. in history from Rutgers University, an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Columbia University, a master’s degree in library science from the Palmer School at Long Island University, and a B.A. from Swarthmore College. Prior to working at NAS he was the sole librarian at the John McEnroe Library at New York Studio School.

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