Executive Order Garners ‘Shock and Despair’
In the wake of the September 22, 2020, Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, I, like many in the engineering education community, initially found myself immobilized with shock and despair at the implications fraught by such a notice from our Executive Branch. Such a notice enforces the dismantling of diversity, inclusion, and workplace safeties that have carefully tailored a more equitable academy and a more equitable and welcoming engineering community.
Engineering is no stranger to systemic forms of oppression, but collectively has worked to combat these disparities in various forms of programming, funding initiatives, outreach incentives, and yes—even through the inception of engineering education as a discipline. Engineering education emerged out of the historical depths of a field built around the oppression of women, the oppression of racial minorities, and the oppression of gender non-conforming individuals. It is important for us to remind ourselves of the history of engineering and its inaccessibility across multiple identities and communities—not to remain immobilized by historical barriers but to be uplifted by the work and progress that our engineering is today. Engineers formalized a field where the pedagogy, the inclusivity, the technicality, the rigor, and the community of engineering and engineering’s future can not only flourish but also embrace change and acceptance.
What is at stake here are not just some formalities written in bureaucratic policies. What is at stake are the precautionary safeguards for individuals without intrinsic support and the destruction of decades worth of civil rights and human rights advancements. We have embarked on precarious terrain, and the only way to navigate these obstacles is united.
I am wounded by the release of this Executive Order within the Hispanic Heritage month, casting a shadow on the LGBTQ+ History Month [in October], and blatantly dismissing the atrocities experienced in the aftermath of George Floyd and countless other atrocities wounding our Black sisters and brothers. I beseech you, each of you; ASEE and each of its divisions; and our respective organizations to continue to uphold the diversity, inclusion, and equity workplace trainings and curriculum to foster the new generation of engineers and maintain what progress has been achieved. These are attacks on diversity, and color-blindness cannot be accepted.
So here I am, ambulant after the initial shock and ready to take action. I am but one small voice asking for the continuation of diversity, inclusion, and equity training and curriculum to remain at the forefront of ASEE’s mission and progression. Asking because sometimes even the smallest of our voices can be heard through the static, through the discourse, through panem et circenses.
I feel assured organizations like ASEE and its Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are willing to take risks on people like myself—an LGBTQ+, Latinx, first-generation member—people that have been “woke” for years steadily waiting for the opportunity to make noise without fear of reprimand, because we will continue to be supported. That regardless of the dismantling of equitable rights nationally, there are academic and industrial organizations that still believe in us, welcome us, and stand hand-in-hand with us through the systemic removal of our rights.
I simply want to be a part of a platform that can help to represent our culture and our presence in a meaningful way, and I think together we can create such a platform through ASEE. We have an unprecedented opportunity to create change through actionable measures—measures that will deliberately latch onto other movements in progress and uplift engineering to a more equitable and welcoming space for us all.
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
Read responses to the Executive Order from ASEE and its Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.