Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Biological Sciences


Diversity Statement

The Department of Biological Sciences (BIOS) at NIU stands against oppression in all its forms. We stand for social and racial justice and are working to improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in our department. We recognize that biological sciences has a long history of colonialism, racism and white supremacy and has participated in oppressive endeavors, including biological racism, eugenics and inhumane treatment of and experimentation on Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). That history and that of our society mean institutionalized, systemic racism is still a part of biology today.

We established an ad-hoc DEI committee as of fall 2020. Six faculty members (Chair Jen Koop, Heather Bergan-Roller, Holly Jones, Virginia Naples, Karen Samonds and Pallavi Singh) currently serve on this committee.

Progress To Date

  • Removed the GRE from consideration for our graduate program applicants.
  • Changed bylaws as follows:
    • We now use a common rubric to evaluate faculty members and the chair to determine tenure and promotion and merit.
    • Our director of graduate studies (DGS) has written in their duties to engage Historically Black College/Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions to recruit graduate students.
    • The DGS is evaluated annually with a rubric.
    • Each faculty search committee now must include a graduate student.
    • Each faculty search committee must now have a discussion on procedures/principles with respect to DEI.
    • Each faculty search committee must construct a common rubric by which to evaluate candidates before application review.
    • Letters from current graduate students can be included in documents to evaluate teaching when faculty come up for tenure and/or promotion.
    • Our bylaws now state that teaching evaluations are often biased against BIPOC faculty, women and those teaching large/introductory courses.
    • Attending training on DEI and other topics will be viewed positively in tenure and promotion decisions.
    • Reports of discrimination, bigotry, or prejudice are viewed negatively in tenure and promotion decisions.
  • Two faculty meetings per year are now dedicated to DEI training or workshops.
  • Graduate student seminars have changed to focus on giving students topical and skills-based learning.
  • Fusion departmental seminars were introduced – graduate students present and get feedback from the department.
  • The graduate committee has drafted and is now using a rubric to evaluate graduate applicants.
  • We are sharing information on teaching the biology of race, as well as resources on DEI seminars and topics with the faculty regularly.
  • Many faculty members devote time to DEI issues in the lab meetings.
  • Created a diversity statement and now provide information on our goals and progress toward them.

Our Goals

  • Having the DEI recognized as standing, rather than an ad-hoc, committee.
  • Rethinking our introductory courses, perhaps with an emphasis toward themes/cohorts.
  • Adding paid learning assistants (LAs – high-achieving undergraduates) to facilitate learning in large lecture/introductory courses.
  • Creating a course on colonization/racism in the history of science.
  • Regular outreach to local middle schools, including potential summer programs.
  • Removing fee to apply to graduate programs.
  • Relying more heavily on peer evaluation of teaching and on trends in evaluations, rather than evaluations of a particular year. Evaluating the impact of an intervention intended to mitigate gender bias in student evaluations of teaching.
  • Having department leadership solicit which faculty would like to receive peer feedback on teaching and facilitate that process. The chair should evaluate pre-tenure faculty teaching at least once before they submit their package.
  • Creating a BIOS 101 course to help students understand what biology can be and who biologists are.
  • Putting gender-inclusive bathroom(s) in Montgomery Hall.
  • Putting a lactation station in Montgomery Hall

Get Involved

If you would like to volunteer to participate in pushing forward our goals, offer suggestions for programs or goals or give any feedback to the DEI committee, please complete the Diversity and Inclusion Interest Form.