Statement from the Chair: We must change

Posted: June 9, 2020

The Ohio State University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering stands with all black people – faculty, staff, students, colleagues, friends, and members of our community.  The injustice that we see has been painfully brought to light by the long chain of lives needlessly and shockingly lost due to unjust and flagrant abuses of power – George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Botham Jean, and many others stretching over decades and centuries of our history.  Many of us are experiencing deep pain - we share that pain, and together we long for justice and a better future.

We stand with all black people in vocally exclaiming that things must change.  We will labor together to pursue ever greater justice, to advance towards an equitable society, to warmly embrace diversity, and to thoughtfully create a respectful and inclusive environment.

But this isn’t just about what’s happening in the world around us:  the problem is here with us.  In fact, my eyes are being opened to the ways that many of us contribute to and are complicit with systemic injustice.  Just a few days ago in an engineering community dialogue, I listened to the voices of young African American Engineering students who shared their experiences of racism – injustices that they have experienced in our presence and from us.  Excluded from groups.  Seen as a threat.  Isolated.  Othered.

I am confronted by this stark reality.  This is not who we want to be!  It is not a reflection of the values of compassion, community, respect, justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion to which we aspire.

So, we must change.  Please join me in boldly confronting these failures to live up to our values – this is what we have the most direct agency to change.  I invite you to process with me in assessing our own role.  We’ll need to humbly and unflinchingly confront the ways that we contribute to injustice.  Yes, there is racism among us.  Yes, the injustice is systemic.  And yes, we can do better.

I freely admit that I am not fully aware of the injustice and the problems, and that I need to learn.  The effects of systemic injustice run deep and may be difficult to bring to light.  But we must – for the good of all of us.

While I don’t have any answers today, I am committing our department to listening, to learning, and to change.  These are a few initial steps that we will take:

  • We will reflect on the history of our department and learn from it.  Let’s examine the origins of our department and our role in society over the years - we’ll need clarity as we bring the systemic injustices to light.
  • We will proactively listen to our own students, staff, and faculty – to hear their experiences; to ask careful questions; and to compassionately commit to change.  We will respond with care and committed action when we learn of reports of racist or unjust behavior or attitudes.
  • We will partner with the College of Engineering and the University on broader change where we can play a role.

We are deeply grieved by the injustice that we see in the world, injustice that has been with us for a long time.  And, we acknowledge that there are many ways that each of us is a part of the systemic injustice in our world.  Together, we will courageously move forward on a pathway of listening, learning, advocacy, and change.  Thanks for your partnership with us as we pursue an equitable and just learning environment and broader society.

Jim Gregory 

Department Chair 

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

The Ohio State University