Black in Engineering: How the Social Justice Efforts of Black Academics Affect Change

Carlotta A. Berry, Audrey Bowden, Monica Farmer Cox, Tahira N. Reid, Leroy L. Long

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In Spring 2020, many faculty found themselves working from home as the world experienced a once in a lifetime pandemic. May 25, 2020, brought angst to the U.S. as the world witnessed the killing of George Floyd. In June, the BlackInTheIvory hashtag started trending on Twitter, bringing attention to inequities and injustices Black people face in academia. These events were a wake up call and confirmation that it was time for Black faculty across disciplines to unite against social injustice and racial inequity, which negatively impacts them inside and outside of the academy. In June 2020, over 60 Black engineering faculty met and decided to convene in solidarity with the goal of dismantling racially oppressive higher education systems. They realized that many Black engineering faculty have continually experienced systemic racism, from their days as undergraduate or graduate students to their current roles as professors. They decided to work collectively to bring awareness to their concerns and to make engineering professional environments places where Black engineering faculty are respected and treated equitably. They wanted to thrive rather than just survive in engineering. They demanded that everyone respect their humanity. Out of the meeting, the Black In Engineering (BIE) social justice movement was created to promote swift and lasting change in academia. Drawing on the 400+ members of the Academic and Research Leadership (ARL) Network, BIE became the social justice arm of ARL, capitalizing on the strength of the Black engineering professional community to consolidate social justice efforts and provide spaces to share experiences and resources. The goal was to celebrate who we are as engineering professionals, educate those who wish to join our; Movement, and connect with sponsors and allies. BIE includes a media campaign, call to action, messaging, policy, finance, strategic planning, networking and empowerment, and community engagement components. To date, BIE has amplified the experiences of Black engineering faculty, connected to current and potential partners, and presented about our call to action. The call to action includes specific recommendations for improving the racially hostile climate in engineering with a focus on anti-Black racism. We aim to help individuals overcome implicit bias and marginalization while standing in solidarity with overall activism efforts for Blacks in America. Dissemination of BIE efforts has occurred via a website, a YouTube channel (with over 255 subscribers with 9500 views),and Twitter account (with nearly 6,000 followers). BIE members have also written several articles and blog posts, been guests on several podcasts, conducted workshops, and held a joint recruiting and awareness campaign week with the Black In Computing organization. The Black In Computing website has an open letter and call to action to the computing community from Black In Computing and their allies. Black In Engineering used their call as inspiration for their work. The goal of this paper is to provide details on and raise awareness of the BIE “Call To Action, On Becoming an Anti-Racist Institution,” which has garnered more than 200 signatures from allies, advocates, and members.The Call to Action centers on five principles: attitude, clarity, institutional accountability, personal accountability, and commitment and resources). It also targets five areas and groups (i.e., system-wide, faculty, staff, undergraduate students, and graduate students). It provides insight on how institutions can implement the recommendations by intersecting with other DEI efforts such as the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) Dean's Diversity Initiative and Diversity Recognition Program (ADRP), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) SEA Change, and the ASPIRE Alliance. Finally, it is to offer advocates and allies suggestions on making these strategies actionable and sustainable across stakeholder groups and to suggest ways to integrate BIE strategies with universities' other diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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