I’ve been a longtime follower of this blog, and have recently found myself in an opportunity to potentially do something about an instance of racism and sexism in my department. However, because I am a first year student working with a well-established professor, I could greatly use some advice from people experienced with dealing with these sorts of issues in academia.
Over the past week, my supervisor invited the students working with him to group sessions to discuss ways in which we could promote collaboration in the department, something he has been investigating practically and theoretically for a number of years. The problem is that, looking around the room, one could not help but notice that all of the half dozen people he surrounds himself with are white men. This surprised me, because he has generally been supportive of feminist and anti-racist scholarship, but of course it should not be that surprising (unfortunately) that this interest does not pan out in practice. That said, as a white male myself, I’m having trouble determining how a professor with an open-door policy and nominally feminist viewpoints is subtly driving away all but a select group of people. I’ve asked women in my department, but they have generally been adverse to discussing this problem fully.
It seems to me that these serious and frank discussions about group work are an ideal moment to discuss the barriers to participation present in this group, but I’m not quite sure what to actually say. The worst part is that people have already commented on the homogeneity of the group, so it’s not that this is an unknown problem.
Do you have any advice for a young graduate student trying to make a small section of the university more hospitable to women and people of color?