Society of Physics Students Addresses Diversity

By: Jenny Wurster, 
Tue, 05/21/2019

The Cornell Society of Physics Students recently added the role of diversity chair to their officer positions. Murali Saravanan ‘20 was only the second person to take on this undefined role.

One of Saravanan’s efforts was to ask all of the 1000 and 2000 level physics instructors to include a diversity statement on their syllabus. “They all know lack of diversity is an issue in physics but they don’t know what they can do about it” says Saravanan. He talked to a number of physics majors first and there was an overwhelmingly positive response to idea of the diversity statement. Every instructor was open to the idea although some wanted to find a more organic way of addressing the diversity topic. He is working to ensure that a diversity statement on the syllabus will become a regular thing going forward.

Saravanan is also concerned with how to make the climate more welcoming for under-represented groups which include women as well as non-Asian men and less visible groups like first generation, low socio-economic status or community college students.  “At first I worried about whether it was my place to say anything [when an insensitive comment is made for example] and then I realized that as a person not in the minority [in physics] I’m exactly the kind of person who needs to stand up and say something.”  He continues to work to make Cornell’s SPS welcoming and inclusive along with the previous women in physics chair Elizabeth Donaway '18 and current wip and diversity chair Grace Song '20.

Murali Saravanan