Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Why geology is the whitest science on the planet:

In an ill-conceived and totally unnecessary sidetrack, today I attempted to track down geology departments in historically black colleges and universities, and came away completely discouraged. There were a couple that had marine science programs that deal with ecology and sediment transport (though sadly not the University of the Virgin Islands- no collaboration there... drats!) with Ph.D. faculty >2, and a couple where geology was a required class for an environmental/natural resources degree. Only one- UTEP, that is University of Texas - El Paso which apparently is a HBCU, has a legitimate geology department.

Part of what spurred this search was that I'd like to recruit a diverse student group for potential graduate studies here. You'd think there'd be plenty of diversity on a campus like Southern Football U., but there isn't. So I looked elsewhere. It's not there either.

Another part of what spurred this was Act IV in Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke: A requiem in four acts". It shows in devastating detail how the citizens of New Orleans (dominantly not white/caucasian) put their trust in a system (i.e., government) that failed them repeatedly and in many ways. Their ability to trust, in my humble opinion, was rooted their lack of education and understanding of extremely pertinent and basic earth science principles regarding their hometown. I'd be devastated too if I had lived with a false sense of security that came crashing down with no one in sight to help in my time of greatest need. But, and I am not blaming the NOLA residents when I say this, a little education would have gone a long way in that situation. That scenario was going to happen- in fact, it had already happened, multiple times, prior to settlement of NOLA. And it was going to happen again, the only question was when. Hurricanes will hit New Orleans directly sometime, someday. That's why now is the time to call in the Dutch!

Will it take natural disasters affecting different segments of our society to get some diversity into the geosciences? I'm not sure even Katrina will impact that. To be honest, I'm not sure what the answer is.

Maybe the answer is large buckets of $$. I could certainly test that solution out!


docdee215 said...

UTEP is not an 'official' HBCU, but more likely a PBCU (Predominantly Black Colleges and Universities).

docdee215 said...

UTEP is not an 'official' HBCU, but more likely a PBCU (Predominantly Black Colleges and Universities).

"Ain't from 'round here" said...

It is strange about UTEP. The list I used with all the links to the HBCU's was just the first one that google brought up was by "Educational On-line" a scant website by any measure. Who made that list, I don't know. On the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, UTEP isn't on the list. So I guess that list is more authentic.

Which paints even a bleaker picture of earth science higher ed. in HBCU's.

Lab Lemming said...

There's plenty of black geologists outside of the United States. Try the Universidade Federal da Bahia in Brazil, the University of Botswana, or the University of Papua-New Guinea.

If you want to get serious about black under-representation in US geology, though, you might want to drop a line to the former Secretary of State and get his perspective. Colin Powell got his geoogy degree from CUNY.