November 6th, 2020
Dear Haverford Biologists,
We are in a difficult time when we are challenged by a global pandemic; daily reminders of
brutal anti-Black violence, systemic racism; a country divided by ideologies; and campus
structures with baked-in systemic inequity. However, this moment also presents us with a
golden opportunity. The Strike, organized by Women of Color House, Black Students Refusing
Further Inaction and the Black Student League, has sharpened focus on how we, as a
Department, have repeatedly failed Black students and students of color. This failure has
extended throughout the history of the Biology Department and continues today. While we have
been individually working toward inclusion, support, and anti-racism, we acknowledge that our
progress has been far too slow for what our students need and deserve. These are hard and
humbling conversations to have, and the student Strike has brought this to the forefront. Thank
you for creating an environment that compels us to do this necessary work in a more expedient
To that end, the Biology Department faculty has concluded that it is essential that we move
quickly to restructure our curriculum with inclusion, equity, and support as the core principles.
Given the urgency, and the time and energy required to fulfill this goal, we are canceling all
Biology classes for the remainder of the semester. This is a drastic and disruptive action, but we
cannot in good conscience proceed as usual. We need your help for our work to be successful
in creating an antiracist, inclusive department, recentered with voices that are traditionally
marginalized. In fact, we can only succeed if you join us in being agents of change as we work
toward these common goals.
We are immediately forming a working group with you, our students, to incorporate your ideas
and input on how to reshape our curriculum, start to finish. We begin next week by framing the
critical issues in biology education with the sophomores, juniors and seniors. We will also
include external experts in DEI in STEM Education to ensure that we are proceeding with
efficiency, effectiveness, and unbiased advice. We are starting a process, with students at the
center, that we trust will lead to lasting changes and a continuing evolution of an inclusionfocused curriculum. This is work that should never be considered complete. What the Strike has
allowed us to do is catalyze our curricular redevelopment and reimagining, which was long
overdue, with our full attention this semester in the hopes that our collective action will lead to
lasting change in the Department. This objective is deserving of our full focus and deepest
commitment for the remainder of this semester and will provide a platform for ongoing efforts to
recreate our curriculum.
Through discussion with the Biology Student Group, we have already identified some key areas
1. Redesigning the entry to Biology to foster belonging and accessibility. A
necessary feature will be to design a new 100-level, semester-long course that actively
welcomes first-year students into Biology, especially those who have been historically
marginalized or under-resourced.
Modifying the Bio200/201 class and lab to appropriately recognize the work and
time invested by students. We must remove the gatekeeping role of this course as a
barrier to majoring in Biology. A key goal will be to prevent the disproportionate loss of
BIPOC and FGLI students who turn away from biology due to these courses.
Addressing equity and transparency in research opportunities. This includes both
academic year and summer experiences at Haverford and other institutions.
Incorporating active anti-racism throughout our curriculum. This includes reframing
how we contextualize science history and increasing the visibility of BIPOC scientists
and their contributions to the field in all courses.
Creating meaningful structural changes to enhance mentorship and advocacy
within our Departmental community. This includes clearer student/faculty
communication, career development opportunities, and mechanisms for Departmental
Students of color have brought us to these realizations, but addressing these issues will benefit
all our majors including LGBTQIA+ students, FGLI students, students with disabilities, and other
minoritized groups. In biology, a diverse community is a healthy community. Your diverse voices
are critical in this process to ensure success.
We are empowering you to participate in this effort. We also want to support students who need
course credits for eligibility for visas and Federal loans and we will ensure that there will be
options to cover this requirement. We have made a request to the Administration for us to offer
a seminar (P/F) tentatively called “Crafting an Inclusive Biology Curriculum” to replace cancelled
Biology course credit as needed. We understand that some of you are not participating in
classes at this time, but it is key that all students are recognized for this community work. For
those joining us outside of a course credit structure, we will ensure an appropriate mechanism
for recognizing your time and effort. We hope that students will participate in this work even if
course credit is not needed or wanted.
Thank you for creating time for us to do this necessary work. The student Strike has honestly
been a gift in this time of anxiety, a pandemic, and the ongoing injustice against BIPOC people
in the world, the United States, the Philadelphia area, and on our campus. Thank you. It has
allowed us to 1) acknowledge our commitment to radically changing the status quo, in order to
maximize the success of every BIPOC, FGLI, and systemically marginalized student and 2)
conclude that working on this commitment and simultaneously teaching classes has been too
slow to be useful to students. Please join us in the next step by attending one of several
planned town hall question sessions next week (links to be sent soon).
As faculty of the Biology Department, we commit to restoring trust with the students we have
marginalized, improving our curriculum to be more fully inclusive, equitable, and supportive.
This is a moment to move the Biology major, Haverford College, and the field of Biology forward
— by coming together to design the tools and methods for creating future scientists rooted in
inclusivity and antiracism.
Your Biology Department Faculty
Amy Cooke, Assistant Professor of Biology
Rob Fairman, Professor of Biology
Amanda Glazier, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
Rachel Hoang, Associate Professor of Biology
Seol Hee Im, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
Roshan Jain, Assistant Professor of Biology
Karl Johnson, Professor of Biology
Shirley Lang, Lab Instructor
Jay Lunden, Visiting Professor of Biology
Eric Miller, Assistant Professor of Biology
Kristen Whalen, Assistant Professor of Biology
Letter to All Haverford Biology Students
Letter to Haverford biology students from Faculty in the Department of Biology issued on November 6, 2020. The letter acknowledges the ways the department has failed Black students and students of color and outlines plans to reshape the curriculum.
Haverford College. Department of Biology (author)
2020_11_06_Letter to All Haverford Biology Students [2020-11-06]