We usually use this space to share updates about Harvey Mudd College with you or to allow you to hear from the voice of one of our staff members, faculty or students. We use it when we have policy changes, announcements or recognitions to share. Today we use it to express our sadness, disgust, and anger toward the violence against Black people we have seen in recent weeks but which has been preceded by hundreds of years of systemic racism and discrimination. The murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and a list of countless others at the hands of police officers require us to recognize, name and address the historic inequities Black people and other minoritized communities have suffered in the United States since its founding. The protests that have sprung from these murders and which have rightly drawn the attention of the world to this ongoing suffering cannot help but have an impact on our future and serve as a call to action.
We are often asked what activities students should engage in that will make them attractive to college admission offices. Our answer is always the same – that there is no wrong activity nor better activity. We want you to follow your interests, and we look to see what you do with the resources you have available to you. That said, we hope that students who seek to join our community are also looking around them: who else is involved in the things you are? Are you seeing a diverse range of people participating? If not, why not? Are there policies or practices that are further alienating those who have already been alienated? Are there actions you can take to make your organization more welcoming and inclusive?
Similarly, students choose to join the Harvey Mudd community because of the spirit of collaboration and connection. What are you doing to foster that spirit of collaboration in your current environment? For our non-Black prospective students, what can you do to support your Black classmates and friends as they navigate their high school education within systems that are often sending both explicit and implicit messages that they don’t belong? It is easy during our busiest and most chaotic times to choose to switch into self-preservation mode and focus our energies on doing the work we need to do, but we know that research, discovery and discussion are all better when we work to ensure that all voices are at the table. During these times, more than ever, Black students need the rest of us to join their fight for inclusion and to feel our support through our actions.
This leads us to also turn these questions on to ourselves at Harvey Mudd and in our office. We have worked for years to diversify our student body with varying levels of success. The campus has engaged in some difficult conversations about how we best serve Black, Latinx and Native students, but it is clear in listening to our student groups that we have far more to do to move beyond representation toward inclusion and empowerment. When it comes to Black students, we need to do more to get to representation. Programs like our Future Achievers in Science & Technology (FAST) and Women’s Inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (WISTEM) have been instrumental in helping Black students and other minoritized students see themselves at Harvey Mudd. This year these programs will be virtual, and this allows us to expand their reach and hopefully their impact.
We are committed to expanding our outreach to Black and other minoritized communities to add to the STEM pipeline. Knowing what we do about the intersectionality of race, class and gender, we will continue to partner with organizations that support low-income and first generation students. We have taken steps in democratizing education with the removal of SAT Subject Scores and are examining other ways to expand access and remove barriers in our application process. Our counselors continue to be committed to helping Black students forge a path in STEM whether their path leads them to HMC or to other institutions. We commit to seeking out more opportunities to do this work where it will involve and benefit Black students specifically. We see ourselves not only as admissions staff for HMC but as counselors who have taken on the challenge of guiding students so that they can create a more just society. We believe Black voices will be integral in this endeavor. We believe that Black lives matter.
Harvey Mudd’s first president, Joseph Platt, along with our earliest faculty, helped to ensure that our curriculum would instruct students in the STEM fields as well as the humanities and social sciences in order to graduate alumni “with a clear understanding of the impact of their work on society.” Never before has the idea of understanding the impact of your work – both that of your profession as well as of your life’s work –on society been more crucial. The idea of “science with a conscience” has been at the heart of Harvey Mudd since our founding. We hope and trust that our students, alumni and entire Harvey Mudd community will expand that call beyond our commitment to science and education to doing the work it will take end destructive systems that have brought us to this place. That is true and lasting impact.