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Efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in Cornell’s Astronomy Department

Presentation #502.12 in the session “Plenary Panel: Workforce Townhall”.

Published onOct 26, 2020
Efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in Cornell’s Astronomy Department

Cornell’s Department of Astronomy and Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science have begun a series of efforts over the past year to increase diversity and create a more equitable and inclusive working environment. In 2019 we established a Climate and Diversity Committee whose monthly open meetings are attended by students, staff, faculty, researchers and alumni, is responsible for organizing training opportunities and examining our reporting, admissions, and workplace processes. Using community input, this committee has developed a values statement for the Department and Center ( to serve as a foundation for further efforts. The Department with guidance from this committee has undertaken a number of steps to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community. We have eliminated the general and subject GRE’s from our graduate admissions process and instituted admission best practices including use of a rubric for evaluating applications for our graduate and REU programs. We actively recruit a diverse pool of undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral and faculty candidates. We have integrated DEI topics and speakers into our nominal colloquia and journal clubs. We require a statement on DEI activities in our annual faculty evaluations. The Department and Center have developed a forward-looking list of individual and collective actions to fight anti-Black racism in Astronomy and Planetary Sciences, and currently participate in or conduct trainings for implicit bias, mentoring diverse students, and bystander intervention. These and additional efforts made by a large number of Cornell Astronomy students, staff, researchers, faculty and alumni will be described along with initial assessments. We have a lot of work to do to meet our aspiration to build a department and center that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive, but hope that these initial efforts will allow us to acknowledge systemic issues and actively work to bring down these barriers.

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