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Biden Administration Executive Actions: Equity & Inclusion

Another early Biden Administration executive order rescinded various Trump Administration actions that attempted to push back against perceived “political correctness” by actions prohibiting trainings and other activities that touch on white privilege, structural inequality, implicit bias, and other supposedly “divisive” concepts based on decades of social science research. President Biden’s Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government goes beyond simply revoking the Trump Administration policies and instead sets a policy of actively working to improve racial equity government-wide. The Executive Order outlines a systematic approach for accurately assessing “whether agency policies and actions create or exacerbate barriers to full and equal participation by all eligible individuals” and identifying strategies to remove barriers. The Executive Order also establishes an Interagency Working Group on Equitable Data to be co-chaired by the Chief Statistician and the Chief Technology Officer and tasked with facilitating the collection of detailed demographic data on ethnicity, gender, disability, income, veteran status, or other key demographic variables in order to measure and advance equity across the government.

President Biden also signed several other Executive Orders intended to advance equity and inclusion, including orders prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation and combating bias against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

ASA Webinar Corrects the Record on “Race and Sex Stereotyping” Executive Actions

The American Sociological Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member, held a webinar on October 20 to respond to recent White House actions prohibiting trainings and other activities that touch on white privilege, structural inequality, and other supposedly “divisive” concepts (see previous coverage). The webinar “Sociology Speaks: Experts Explain the Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping” featured three sociologists, Karyn Lacy of the University of Michigan, Bandana Purkayastha of the University of Connecticut, and Shelley Correll of Stanford University, who corrected the misrepresentations of these concepts in the orders and memoranda and explained how they have contributed to a better understanding of power and prejudice. A recording of the webcast is available on ASA’s website.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 27), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

AAAS Forum Focuses on COVID Impacts, Systemic Racism in Science

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) held its annual Science & Technology Policy Forum in a virtual format on October 13-14. The forum featured two days of panels and lectures focused on pressing policy issues facing the sciences. The majority of the first day’s sessions focused on how COVID-19 has impacted science and innovation, the essential role science has played in responding to the pandemic, and lessons that can be drawn from this experience to strengthen the science and technology enterprise going forward. The second day featured a number of sessions on confronting the dark history of racism in science as well as present inequities that continue to persist for people of color working in the sciences. Presenters identified ways the scientific community can move forward to earn back lost trust and to make the scientific enterprise a more equitable endeavor. More information on the sessions is available on the AAAS website, where recordings will be posted.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 27), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Administration Expands Ban on “Promotion” of Structural Racism/Sexism to Contractors, Grantees

As part of the Administration’s ongoing effort to crack down on perceived “political correctness” in government, President Trump issued an executive order on September 22 to “combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.” This order expands on a recent memorandum from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that required federal agencies to cease funding for training that addresses critical race theory and white privilege (see previous coverage). The executive order applies this prohibition to federal contractors and grant recipients. In addition, it expands the original OMB memo beyond employee training to require that federal agencies certify that federal grantees will not use federal funds to “promote the concepts” that:

“(a) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex; (b) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously; (c) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex; (d) members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex; (e) an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex; (f) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex; (g) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; or (h) meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.”

This raises the concerns that, depending on how the language is interpreted by federal agency leadership, the prohibition could apply to federal social science research grants that address structural racism and sexism. The order gives agency heads 60 days to compile a list of grant programs that violate this prohibition. We will continue to follow the implementation of this order closely and report on developments affecting social scientists. COSSA recently joined a statement led by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the National Academy of Education in support of anti-racist education.

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Posted in Issue 19 (September 29), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

White House Directs Federal Agencies to Defund Race-Related Trainings for Federal Employees

On September 4, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum calling for federal agencies to cease funding training sessions for federal employees addressing critical race theory and white privilege. The memo alleges that “executive branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to date ‘training’ government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda,” citing unnamed press reports as evidence that “employees across the executive branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that ‘virtually all White people contribute to racism’ or where they are required to say that they ‘benefit from racism.’” The memo directs federal agencies to “identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’ ‘white privilege,’ or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.”

Many organizations in the scientific community have expressed concern about the OMB memo, including the American Sociological Association (ASA), a COSSA governing member. In a September 7 press release, ASA asserted that the OMB memo “represents a fundamental misunderstanding of both critical race theory and the term white privilege and the extensive body of empirical research underlying them,” and shared a list of sociologists who could comment on their research of the issues.

Other organizations, including COSSA and several of its member associations, are also weighing a response to the OMB memo. We will continue to report on this developing story.

The full OMB memo is available on the White House website.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 15), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Kenneth Prewitt Answers “Why Social Science?”

why-social-scienceThis week’s Why Social Science? guest post features an article by Kenneth Prewitt, President of the American Academy of Political and Social Science and Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs at Columbia University, who argues that the social sciences can better incorporate ethical frameworks in order to end structural racism. Read it here and subscribe.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

AAAS Issues Draft Plan to Address Systemic Racism in the Sciences

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has released the first of three draft plans intended to address systemic racism in the sciences, Holding up a Mirror: Demographic Representation in AAAS Functions that Advance Careers. The plan outlines AAAS’s commitment and proposed actions to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion within its operations. Forthcoming draft plans will focus on AAAS programs and initiatives to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in science and engineering and on AAAS actions to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion with the AAAS as an organization. They are expected to be released by mid-September. Comments and suggestions may be submitted to suggestionsforaaas@aaas.org.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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