A Message from Dean Bellamkonda on #ShutDownSTEM

June 9, 2020

A call for reflection on structural racism in academia and society

Dear Pratt community, 

In the wake of the tragic murder of George Floyd and worldwide protests against systemic racism and police violence over the past two weeks, I know many of us care deeply about making sure that this pivotal moment for deeply needed change and racial healing is not lost.  

Tomorrow, June 10, a national grassroots movement called #ShutDownSTEM has urged all of us in STEM academic communities to take time to learn, reflect and think deliberately about how we can take action in our own communities—our labs, our teams, our units and departments, our school, our university and beyond—to “transition to a lifelong commitment of actions to eradicate anti-Black racism in academia and STEM.”

The Pratt School of Engineering enthusiastically supports this effort. In many conversations with our department chairs and others this week, we agreed that as educators and engineers, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves more deeply about structural racism in our society and in our field, and look for actions we can take to become part of the solution and truly be an ‘anti-racist,’ in the words of Ibram X. Kendi.   

Although this initiative launched quickly, and we understand many of you may have existing commitments, I hope you will consider spending significant time tomorrow to reflect deeply in a personal way by adjusting your calendars and schedules to enable such important reflection as a first step towards action. I also encourage our faculty and managers to support their team members as we join with colleagues across the nation tomorrow to learn, listen and consider what steps we can take, both individually and together, to be 'anti-racist' in our thoughts, choices, actions and policies.    

Many groups have provided helpful educational resources to read and reflect on:

  • ShutDownSTEM Resources guide
  • Duke’s Office of Institutional Equity posted a list of resources from both Duke and from across the country that explore historical, economic, legal and social issues of racism and other biases
  • Duke’s National Society of Black Engineers student chapter has created a resource page for our community 
  • Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy has curated resources for discussions about race and bias
  • The AAAS.org homepage will include an invitation for suggestions and comments from the STEM community tomorrow

If you have other resources to recommend, please email prattdeansoffice@duke.edu.   

Later this month, I will invite our community to a follow-on gathering online so that we can further our discussion of how we as a school can make changes that truly change our world in a meaningful way.  

So, this is certainly not the only initiative we or others at Duke will take – we have a lot of work to do.  As we continue the work toward racial justice and healing, tomorrow is an opportune moment to reflect on how we as scholars and engineers can do our part, and I hope many of you will join me in doing so. 

 Ravi V. Bellamkonda signature

Ravi V. Bellamonda
Vinik Dean of Engineering

*As organizers have noted, #ShutDownSTEM is aimed at the broad research community that is not directly working on efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to spread worldwide. We add our thanks as a school to all those in our community and beyond engaged in this important effort.